The president is expected to issue an executive order Wednesday asking the Department of Interior to review at least 50 national monuments created since 1996. According to E&E News, the review will “suggest legislative changes or modifications” to public lands protected under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows presidents to restrict activities on large swaths of land and water in order to protect its “historical or scientific value.”
The most likely monument to be reversed is the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, a 1.35 million-acre mesa of Native American cultural and archaeological sites which President Barack Obama designated just before leaving office. But the order could also “open to the door to revoking designations for millions of acres of land and waters that have been protected under the Antiquities Act,” wrote Jenny Rowland, the research manager at the Center for American Progress’ Public Lands Project. Citing Trump’s enthusiasm for fossil fuel exploration on public lands, Rowland added, “Every indication is that the administration’s ‘review’ will conclude that there is too much protected public land in the country.”
Of course, like many of Trump’s executive actions on the environment, undoing these protections won’t be as simple as signing a piece of paper. “Any move by Trump to abolish a national monument designation could spark a serious legal battle,” the Washington Post reported this week, as legal scholars have argued that while presidents have the power to create monuments, they lack the power to dismantle them.