President Donald Trump is planning to sign a new executive order that would require the Interior Department to look at every presidential declaration of national monuments dating back to 1996, and to determine whether they should rescind those designations.
The order would specifically look into whether such declarations were made legally, and whether executive use of the Antiquities Act was performed improperly.
The act allows presidents to designate federal lands and sites as national monuments, and has been used by 16 presidents as far back as Teddy Roosevelt to designate places like the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty as national landmarks.
Those sites won’t be covered by Trump’s executive order, which he plans to signing Wednesday. But two sites are likely to be targeted specifically by the administration: Bears Ears National Monument, established by former President Barack Obama; and Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, created by former President Bill Clinton.
Both sites are being singled out by the Trump administration because gas and oil companies are interested in the potential deposits that may sit under those sites and elsewhere. Presidents have used the Antiquities Act to go “well beyond protecting specific cultural resources, and they are being used to just lock away land with broad strokes, with no consideration of what’s going on on the ground,” Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma said.
There are no provisions for how a president can rescind orders made through the Antiquities Act by past presidents, but the executive order on Wednesday signals that Trump and his team are likely concocting ways to get around those barriers.