WASHINGTON — Flanked by a group of Utah officers at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, President Donald Trump on Monday signed a pair of proclamations to dismantle two of the state’s national tombstones — a move that opens the door for petroleum, gas and other developing on public land that has been protected.

The boundary of Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35 million-acre landscape named after a pair of buttes and home to thousands of Native American archeological and cultural websites, will shrink by about 85 percentage. The 1.87 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the largest land national monument in the two countries, is likely to be cut approximately in half.

“I’ve come to Utah to take a very historic action to reverse federal overreach and return the rights of this ground to your citizens, ” Trump said during his speech.

SAUL LOEB via Getty Images
President Donald Trump comprises up a pen after signing the hat of Bruce Adams, president of the San Juan County Commission and a vocal foe of Bears Ears National Monument.

The action — the most significant reduction of national tombstones in history — follows an administrative its consideration of recent tombstone identifications that Trump launched in April. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said early on that “there is no predetermined outcome on any monument, ” but the criticism he and Trump have constructed in regard to several recent designations left many wished to know whether its consideration of the report was mostly for show.

There was utterly no consultation with our nation in advance of this decision. Ethel Branch, attorney general for the Navajo Nation

The president will no doubt face a slew of legal challenges over the new proclamations, most notably from the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. The group of five Native American tribes petitioned for Bears Ears to be given tombstone status.

Ethel Branch, the us attorney general for the Navajo Nation, told reporters in a call ahead of Trump’s trip to Utah that the looming bulletin was “absolutely shocking” and wholly “disrespectful” of the activities of the decade of job that went into establishing Bears Ears.

“There was utterly no consultation with our commonwealth in advance of this decision. We were greatly upset by that, ” Branch said. “And ultimately, the president doesn’t have authority to take the steps he seeks to take on Monday. We plan to challenge that in court.”

Presidents have reduced the size of tombstones before — in 1915, for example, Woodrow Wilson trimmed more than 300,000 acres from Mount Olympus — but there is no legal precedent that establishes a president’s authority to abolish, shrink or otherwise weaken national tombstones.

Congress , not the president, has the sole legal power to cancel or diminish protections for monuments designated under the Antiquities Act, four legal scholars concluded in June. Sixteen chairpeople have applied the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate 157 monuments.

The field known as Bears Ears, near Blanding, Utah, was designated their own nationals tombstone by President obama in 2016.

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante have been at the center of a fiery debate over the size and scope of such protected websites.

Members of Utah’s Republican delegation and other local officials who have a reputation for attacking public lands have explosion the establishment of tombstones in their nation, referring to them as federal land grabs by Chairmen Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. And they were quick to call on Trump to overturn or drastically diminish the sites.

Trump signed a pair of executive orders in April that threatened the future of 27 national monuments. At the signing ceremony, he said the designation of Bears Ears “should never have happened” and praised Sen. Orrin Hatch( R-Utah) for his “never-ending prodding” on the issue. And Trump boasted that he would terminate “another egregious abuse of federal power, ” put “states back in charge” and open up protected areas to “tremendously positive things.”

Monday’s proclamations reduce Bears Ears to 201,876 acres and Grand Staircase-Escalante to 1,003, 863 acres — a collective loss of more than two million acres. Additionally, they divvy up both tombstones into several smaller units.

According to maps distributed Monday, Bears Ears will consist of two disconnected areas called Indian Creek and Shash Jaa. Grand Staircase-Escalante will consist of three units: Grand Staircase, Escalante Canyons and Kaiparowitz.

During his speech Monday, Trump railed against recent administrations for abusing the Antiquities Act and against “far-away bureaucrats” in Washington , D.C ., for imagining they know more about managing Utah grounds than local residents do.

“These any infringement of the Antiquities Act have not just threatened your local economies, they’ve threatened your very way of life, ” Trump said. “They’ve threatened your hearts.”

“Public grounds will once again be for public use, ” he added.

In a tweet on Monday, former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the decision would solidify Trump’s place as “the most anti-conservation president in our history.”

“Mr Trump, some promises are worth maintaining, ” she wrote in an opinion piece for The Guardian. “Some places should remain forever.”

Environmental groups were quick to condemn Trump’s proclamations, and several promised to sue.

“This is a shameful and illegal attack on our nation’s protected grounds, ” Jamie Rappaport Clark, chairman the conservation nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement. “National tombstones are designated for their scientific, cultural and conservation value — because they are too important to injury and degrade. Teddy Roosevelt is rolling in his grave.”

Roosevelt — of whom Zinke calls himself an “unapologetic admirer and disciple” — signed the Antiquities Act into statute in 1906 and used it to designated more than 800, 000 acres of the Grand Canyon as their own nationals tombstone. He also designated the 20,629 -acre Chaco Canyon National Monument and the 610,000 -acre Mount Olympus National Monument.

While Native American tribes are expected to lead the legal battle against Trump’s decision to shrink Bears Ears, Earthjustice announced Monday that it is representing eight preservation groups in a suit to protect Grand Staircase-Escalante’s borders.

“President Trump has perpetrated a horrible violation of America’s public grounds and heritage by going after this dinosaur treasure trove, ” Heidi McIntosh, a overseeing attorney at Earthjustice, said in a statement. “While past chairpeople have employed the Antiquities Act to protect unique lands and cultural sites in America, Trump is instead mangling the existing legislation, opening this national tombstone to coal mining instead of protecting its scientific, historic, and wild heritage. We will not let this stand.”

Zinke has recommended Trump shrink or otherwise modify at the least 10 other existing national tombstones, according to a leaked copy of the report that the interior secretary submitted to the White House in late August. Zinke has also recommended Trump create three new national monuments, including a 130,00 -acre monument in the Badger-Two Medicine area of his house government of Montana — a move many see as hypocritical.

“It’s surely encouraging to see Secretary Zinke advocating for permanent protect of the Badger-Two Medicine, but he can’t have it both routes, ” Kate Kelly, public lands director at the Center for American Progress, told HuffPost. “It’s unacceptable to propose monument protection of the Badger in his own backyard of Montana, while at same time stripping protections from Bears Ears and other sacred places for Native Americans. With President Trump attempting to render monument protections as impermanent, Zinke’s proposal resounds as hollow and politically self-serving.”

Monday’s announcement notably comes a few weeks after Trump proved unable to get through an event at the White House to recognize Native American Code Talkers — largely Navajo Marine who transmitted commands over the radio to soldiers overseas in their native language during World War II — without resurrecting his favorite insult for Sen. Elizabeth Warren( D-Mass .).

“You were here long before any of us were here, ” Trump told Code Talkers during the course of its event. “Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”

This article has been updated with addition details from Trump’s speech on Monday, and with reactions to his proclamations.

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