Legislation, litigation to quickly follow Trump's monument announcement

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SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump's move Monday to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments will touch off a flurry of litigation and legislation as soon as he leaves town.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, promised a "dramatic" announcement, possibly as soon as Monday afternoon, on the heels of the president's action.

"It's going to be one of those things where people say, 'That really is a win-win,'" he said.

Stewart, whose district includes Grand Staircase-Escalante, declined to go into detail but said there would be legislation to not only put the president's down-sized monuments into law, but legislation that goes further as well. He said the bills would include management plans and protection for antiquities.

"Right now, the monument carries no expanded protections. It's just a monument. There's no enhanced law enforcement. There's no additional money appropriated to protect it," he said. "This legislation would actually enhance some of the things people most appreciate out of the monument."

Stewart and Republican Utah Reps. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and John Curtis, are also scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday in Washington, D.C., on legislation related to Trump's announcement.

"It's really best if we do this through Congress," Stewart said, so the land designations don't change with whenever there's a new president.

Despite his optimism over the legislation, Stewart doesn't expect it to head off any of the anticipated lawsuits from environmental groups, Native American tribes and others that intend to file against the federal government.

Attorneys representing five tribes defending Bears Ears are planning to hold a news conference as soon as Tuesday to discuss their legal strategy to fight any executive order and preserve the entire monument. The Navajo Nation Department of Justice, Ute Indian Tribe and Native American Rights Fund are among those planning to sue.

The Bear Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition — made up of the Navajo, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni and Ute tribes — consider the Bears Ears area sacred ground and lobbied heavily to have it protected as a national monument.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Sierra Club could also be among those heading to court.

Lawsuits would tie up the controversy over Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante for years.

Trump has not backed away from making pronouncements that land his administration in court. The monuments issue is no different.

Air Force One is scheduled to arrive at the Utah Air National Guard base in Salt Lake City around 11 a.m. Monday. Trump will first meet with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and tour the church's Welfare Square. The presidential motorcade will then head to the state Capitol where Trump will make a speech around 12:30 p.m.


In his first trip to Utah since being elected president, Trump is expected to speak mostly about the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante reductions, though he could touch on the other monuments across the country that he directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review earlier this year.

The president is expected to be in Utah for under four hours before flying back to Washington around 1:30 p.m.

Overnight snow showers, security measures and road closures could snarl downtown traffic as the president arrives.

The governor's office advised Capitol Hill residents that the "nature" of Trump's visit might bring large crowds of people to the area. Bus, TRAX, FrontRunner and streetcar users should expect delays during Trump's visit, according to the Utah Transit Authority.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is organizing a protest Monday morning outside the Capitol before and during Trump's speech.

"We will stand and chant with signs and banners in an approved protest zone, forming an arc along the south end of the Capitol grounds," according to the SUWA Facebook page.

Thousands of monument supporters on the Capitol front steps [protested](<Thousands gather in 2 public lands rallies for and against Trump>) the president's anticipated decision Saturday. Salt Lake photographer Cat Palmer arranged people in white jumpsuits to spell out "Dump Trump" and "Go Home Trump" on the Capitol lawn Sunday, according to her Facebook page.

Also Saturday, a smaller but enthusiastic crowd gathered at the San Juan County Courthouse in Monticello to thank Trump and Zinke, who toured Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante before recommending they be down-sized.

Much of the delay in making the announcement on smaller monuments is due to the Department of Justice going over the boundary maps to be able to defend the protections that will be outlined, Stewart said.

The congressman said there doesn't have to be winners and losers in the monuments debate.

"I really think that what we can do is make both sides happy, or at least hopefully make them so they're not angry," he said. The antiquities and most scenic areas could be protected while "not being so hard on the local community."

Ranchers, coal miners and timber companies "feel like they've just had their heads beat in over the last generation. I think this is a message to them that we value them and their input as well."


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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


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