Analysis: The looming battle over the Antiquities Act
On December 4, 2017, President Trump announced his long-anticipated decisions to shrink two major national monuments in southern Utah. Trump shrunk the Bears Ears National Monument designated by President Obama at the end of 2016 from 1.35 million acres to 201,786 acres, a reduction of about 85%. The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was reduced by approximately 46%, from 1.87 million acres to a little more than one million acres. And more reductions at other monuments are expected to follow. In terms of reversing public land protections, these decisions are unprecedented in scale. Nothing comes even close.
Trump’s decisions have set the table for the most dramatic legal fight over the Antiquities Act since the Supreme Court unanimously upheld President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1908 designation of the Grand Canyon National Monument in 1920. So, how did we get here, and how is this battle likely to play out?