WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Wednesday enforcing a review of 21 years’ worth of national monuments designated by his predecessors.
The Antiquities Act Executive Order broadly instructs Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the designations of tens of millions of acres of federally protected lands, to determine if past administrations abused their power when cordoning off the swaths.
Zinke will review designations as recent as the December 2016 protection of Bear Ears in Utah by President Barack Obama, and as far back as former President Bill Clinton’s 1996 designation of the Golden Staircase-Escalante monument, also in Utah.
In a conference call Tuesday night, Zinke said only monuments of 100,000 acres or more would fall under his purview, or 24 to 40 monuments. Marine sanctuaries and other areas which have been deemed off limits to timber, oil and gas mining will also fall under scrutiny.
Athan Manuel, the director of public lands protection at the Sierra Club said in an interview Tuesday that he sees the order as doing little else than jeopardizing the health of public lands and waters while also threatening to damage the tourism industry.
“It threatens the booming outdoor economy, which new numbers from the Outdoor Industry Association released [Tuesday] show contributes $887 billion to our economy and supports 7.6 million jobs,” Manuel said. “The move clearly plays to out-of-the-mainstream politicians who would like to see our natural and cultural heritage sold off to the highest bidder.”
Zinke emphasized during the press conference that the president’s authority on the matter is singular and that the point of the review is not to strip lands of designations but to evaluate if those designations had resulted in job losses, wage reductions and the restriction of access for people who live in communities surrounding the monument.
“This is part of what President Trump said he would do while he was on the campaign trail,” Zinke said.
Manuel is confident that the secretary is aware of the public’s affinity for lands like Bear Ears and other monuments, but he is less confident of the administration’s motives.
“I think this review will show what other studies and polls consistently show – that the American people love our parks and public lands and want to see them protected for the future,” Manuel said. “Whether he will act on the widespread desires of the American people or the narrow interests of the dirty-fuel industry remains to be seen.”