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April 26, 2017

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that could put the future of 24 national parks in jeopardy.

From the Interior Department, Trump issued a review of an act which have given presidents the power to designate land as national monuments since 1906. Under the Antiquities Act, presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama have established 24 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Basin and Range National Monument and the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

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Trump is asking, specifically, for a review of monuments larger than 100,000 acres created under the act over the past 20 years. At the heart of the request is Bear Ears National Monument in Utah. Obama designated the 1.3-million-acre land as a national monument in December 2016. It contains places for rock climbing, Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings that date back 3,500 years and land considered sacred by Native American tribes.

However republicans in Utah have asked Trump to rescind Obama’s designation, saying that it infringed on their state’s rights. Utah Representative Rob Bishop spoke staunchly against the designation of Bear Ears National Monument in February. Utah senator Orrin Hatch said this week that he is “committed to rolling back the egregious abuse of the Antiquities Act to serve far-left special interests."

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“The policy is consistent with the President Trump's promise to give Americans a voice and make sure their voices are heard,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a briefing with reporters on Tuesday. He said the review was meant to restore “the trust between local communities and Washington” while ensuring that “states will have a voice” in designating federal land.

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Although Trump’s order will not immediately strip any lands of their designation (no decision will be made for at least 120 days), opponents of the order say that a review is just the first step to giving the land back to Utah. The review of the lands has been especially criticized by environmentalists.

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“Bears Ears and other national monuments were designated after significant community input because they are a critical part of our national heritage and have exceptional ecological characteristics worth protecting for future generations,” Rose Marcario, president and CEO of the outdoor company Patagonia, told CNN. “It's extremely disturbing to see the Trump administration apparently laying the groundwork to remove protections on our public lands.”

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