Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments
By Ethan Lane
December 4, 2017
Every White House — especially over the last 30 years or so, has worked to expand the power of the Executive Branch. But today’s action seems more likely to restrict that power, giving it back to locals and their representatives in government.
When President Obama declared Bears Ears a national monument in the waning days of his administration, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. National monuments are a lot like national parks, but they differ in one very important aspect — the president can create a national monument with nothing more than the stroke of a pen. A small handful of very loud, very aggressive environmental groups and tribal interests had long been lobbying for just this designation, and they were thrilled at the breathtaking scope of the designation — more than 1.3 million acres.
Locals, though, weren’t so thrilled. Elected officials from Gov. Gary Herbert to Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Rob Bishop — who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources — had been working for years to broker an agreement that would protect and preserve the culturally significant areas while allowing much-needed access and use to locals who depend on the land for their livelihoods and their way to life.
Then, with nearly no notice and without so much as a nod toward soliciting input, the Obama administration intervened and created a political maelstrom. With nothing more than a proclamation, all that work to build consensus and foster cooperation found itself swept into the dustbin of history. The narrative became entirely political.
With today’s pronouncement, the current administration made a strong statement — although the law may give presidents the right to unilaterally make such decisions without so much as consulting those who have a stake in them, maybe presidents ought to be more judicious with that power.
Obviously, the people who depend on public lands — which make up nearly 90 percent of some of Utah’s counties — are better off today than they were before this move.
To be sure, today’s announcement eases the burdens placed on local ranchers and their communities.