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Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante to Shrink by Nearly 2 Million Acres

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante will shrink dramatically, President Trump announced Monday. Katie Cooney photo. 

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - President Trump has announced that he will dramatically scale back both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, both of which were designated under the 1906 Antiquities Act by President Obama.

This move will be the largest reduction of the protection of public lands in U.S. history. It will shrink Bears Ears by more than 1.1 million acres and Grand Staircase-Escalante by more than 800,000 acres.

Trump's decision will shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante by around 85% and 46%, respectively. Washington Post reports that this is the first time that an administration has attempted to modify national monuments in more than half a century. President Trump said Monday that his predecessors had "violated the spirit" of the act, and that they had ignored standards about how much land should be protected.

"I don't think it's controversial, actually, I think it's so sensible," President Trump said in Salt Lake City speech. Trump called the designation a "tragic federal overreach," and went on to state that the protection of the land prevents many Native peoples from using the land for their most sacred traditions.

 RELATED: Why You Should Be Pissed Congress Wants Your Public Lands

The five tribes that make up the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition plan to file a join suit over Trump's decision. "The tribes view this as an affront to themselves and their own self-determination," said Natalie Landreth, senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund (The Salt Lake Tribune). 

The move to cut Monument boundaries has driven a wedge between Utah's outdoor-recreation community and the Utah Republican Party, culminating earlier this year with the Outdoor Retailer show relocating to Colorado in protest.

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President Trump announced on Monday that Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments  would be reduced by a total of 2 million acres, with control of that land going back to the state of Utah, which could then potentially sell or lease it to the highest bidder. Conservationists, Native Americans, and much of the outdoor industry lost their collective minds, with Patagonia going so far as to change their homepage to an all black background with a grim announcement,

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This past week has been nothing short of a political clusterfuck for anyone involved in the removal of monument status for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. The move angered many Utahans, Native American tribes and many in the outdoor industry, as it strips protections from land we know and love and sets a dangerous precedent for removing similar protections on public land in the future. Following Trump’s announcement, a barrage of lawsuits were filed by organizations representing