WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to allow national monument designations to be rescinded or reduce the size of sites as the administration pushes to open up more federal land to drilling, mining and other development.
Trump’s order is part of an effort to reverse many of the environmental protections implemented by his predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama that Trump said were hobbling economic growth. Trump’s agenda is being cheered by industry but enraging conservationists.
Legal challenges are expected because no president has ever rescinded a monument designation.
In announcing the order on Wednesday Republican Trump said Obama’s use of the 1906 Antiquities Act to create monuments was an “egregious abuse of federal power” that allowed the federal government to “lock up” millions of acres of land and water.
The Antiquities Act gives a president the authority to create national monuments from federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features.
“Today we’re putting the states back in charge,” Trump said, adding that they should decide which land is protected and which is open for development.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters late Tuesday the order requires him to review about 30 national monuments created over the past two decades, and recommend which designations should be lifted or altered.
The monuments covered under the review will range from the Grand Staircase created by President Bill Clinton in 1996 to the Bears Ears created by Obama in December 2016, both in Utah.
Zinke said he will seek local feedback before making recommendations, adding that reversing a monument designation could be tricky.
“It is untested, as you know, whether the president can do that,” Zinke said.
President Woodrow Wilson reduced the size of Washington state’s Mount Olympus National Monument in 1915,…