The federal government has unveiled final management plans for two national monuments in Utah that President Donald Trump downsized more than two years ago that ensure lands previously off-limits to energy development will be open to mining and drilling despite pending lawsuits.
An Interior Department official says the lands have generated little interest from energy companies in the two years since President Trump reduced the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly half. The lands were formerly part of national monuments declared by President Barack Obama.
Conservation groups criticized the administration Thursday for spending time on management plans they believe will become moot. They contend Trump misused the Antiquities Act to reverse decisions by previous presidents.
A federal judge last year rejected the administration’s bid to dismiss the lawsuits. In a recent court filing, tribal groups said the Bears Ears lands are “a living and vital place where ancestors passed from one world to the next.”
It’s unknown how long it will take before a judge rules on lawsuits that were filed two years ago.
The biggest fear by conservationists is that the excluded lands on some of the most pristine stretches of the American Southwest will become ravaged by mining, drilling and extraction. They also worry about off-road vehicle use and logging.