Both monuments were created by Democratic Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
With President Donald Trump's decision on Monday to remove over 2 million acres of land from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, three lawsuits have already been filed in response to the presidential proclamation.
Trump will also ask Congress to look at the areas that are being removed from the current monuments to consider designating some as a national conservation or national recreation areas, and create a co-management structure for tribes, an administration official said. Using the same reasoning as for reducing the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Trump wants to cut down the approximately 1.35 million acres, designated as federally protected land by former President Barack Obama on December 28, 2016, by over 1.15 million acres, down to only 201,876 acres.
When President Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument previous year, it was a huge victory for five Utah tribes - the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zuni - who came together in 2015 to push for the preservation of what they estimate are 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD, in the region. "We will be fighting back immediately".
The changes will make way for oil and gas drilling, mining and other resource extraction activities in the beauty spot. "They don't know your land". The company said Trump's decision "undermines the integrity" of the Antiquities Act, which is used to designate and protect national monuments.
Zinke also has recommended allowing logging at a newly designated monument in ME and urges more grazing, hunting and fishing at two sites in New Mexico. Patagonia said the move was "illegal" and constituted the "largest elimination of protected land in American history". "Bears Ears isn't just about a few artifacts in isolated locations", said Shaun Chapoose, a member of the Ute tribe, which advocated for the creation of the monument in the 1990s. "And the Antiquities Act was never meant to prevent, it was meant to protect".
But the Trump administration insists the president can do that, and Zinke said Tuesday that Trump was "absolutely right" to order a review of 27 large monument declarations dating back two decades.
With typical Trumpian flair, the president had hyped the announcement as "one of the great, really, events in this country in a long time".
Zinke told reporters the land targeted by Trump remains protected because it is still under federal control.
Bruce Adams, chairman of the San Juan County Commission is glad President Trump is considering shrinking monuments across the American West.