Durbin, Schumer, Pelosi, Hoyer Statement On President Trump's Decision To Shrink Utah's National Monuments

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) today released the following statement on President Trump’s decision to dramatically shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah.  President Trump’s decision is an unprecedented attempt to use presidential power to shrink national monument designations made by two of his predecessors – President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton. Current law states that only Congress has the authority to modify a monument. 

“America is not America without its great outdoor spaces, its national parks, and historic monuments that Congress and past presidents have preserved for the benefit of generations to come.  To diminish our commitment to protecting the natural landscapes and historic places of this country from ruin by exploitation or pollution would constitute a breach of our responsibility both to those who founded this nation and those who will inherit it.  That’s why we are deeply troubled by today’s announcement, which would undermine the preservation of some of this country’s most important national monuments and would remove protections for more than 2 million acres of public lands – the largest such elimination in our nation’s history. 

“In particular, Utah’s most cherished national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, will now be under threat as a result of President Trump’s order.  Many of these are sacred land to Native Americans, and they will now be put at risk of desecration and looting.  We must not allow this Administration to dismantle the protections that have been built for more than a century since Congress passed the Antiquities Act in 1906.  We will continue to work across the aisle to build support among those who care deeply about the conservation of open spaces, the preservation of historic monuments, and the cleanliness of our air and water for efforts to push back against this executive order.”  

Earlier this year, Durbin, Schumer, Pelosi, and Hoyer sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke urging him to reject efforts to shrink or eliminate national monuments. 

Following a meeting with Secretary Ryan Zinke, last week Durbin once again asked Secretary Zinke to share maps and documentation detailing any changes he is recommending regarding the boundaries and management of existing national monuments in a memorandum referred to as “Monument Review,” as well as any document explaining what legal authority President Trump plans to use to enact the changes.

In October, Durbin led 15 of his Senate colleagues in a letter to President Trump urging him to maintain the current boundaries and management plans for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments in Utah.  In April, Durbin introduced legislation – America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act – to protect 9.2 million acres of public land in Utah that is rich in archaeological resources and home to numerous rare plant and animal species.