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AZ Conservation Advocates Blast Trump Review of National Monuments

Arizona's Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is on the list to be reviewed by the Department of the Interior.(kconnors/morguefile)
Arizona's Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is on the list to be reviewed by the Department of the Interior.(kconnors/morguefile)
April 27, 2017

PHOENIX -- The status of four of Arizona's national monuments will now be reviewed by the Department of the Interior - part of an executive order signed by President Trump on Wednesday.

The order covers all national monuments created over the past three administrations. However, Trump singled out President Obama, who protected more land than any previous chief executive, calling his designation of Bears Ears in Utah "a massive federal land grab" and an "egregious abuse of federal power.”

Mike Quigley, Arizona state director for The Wilderness Society, said Trump has it all wrong.

"If there is a land grab going on, it seems to be the states and the extractive industry special interests that are looking to make the land grab,” Quigley said. "By and large, Americans see America's public lands as a national treasure."

Grand Canyon National Park started out as a national monument and would not be affected by this order. However, Ironwood Forest, Grand Canyon-Parashant, Vermillion Cliffs and the Sonoran Desert national monuments were all created in the early 2000s by President Clinton and would fall under this review.

A recent study by the Outdoor Industry Association showed that the outdoor recreation economy generates just under $1 billion in economic activity for local communities, and supports 7-8 million jobs.

It is unclear whether the administration will recommend any changes to Arizona's monuments. Kevin Dahl, senior program manager with the Arizona office of the National Parks Conservation Association, said the Antiquities Act gives the chief executive the right to create a monument but only Congress can undo one.

"Any attempt to rescind or alter the size of any one of our national monuments is inappropriate and the president does not have that authority,” Dahl said. "So it looks like he is simply playing to a small portion of his base."

A bill currently before the U.S. Senate, SB 33, would require any new national monuments to garner the approval of the Legislature and governor of the state where it is located.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ