WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Monday signed two executive actions that drastically slash the boundaries of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, and criticized former presidents for their use of the Antiquities Act to designate such monuments.
Trump called former President Barack Obama's designation of Bears Ears an overreach of executive power, even as he unilaterally undid much of the designation himself. President Bill Clinton first designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996.
At a speech at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Trump vowed to oversee a process that would tamp down on what he sees as abuses of the 1906 Antiquities Act, which presidents since Teddy Roosevelt have used to protect environmentally and culturally significant areas.
The proclamations Trump signed reduce the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante monument to 906,000 acres, while Bears Ears, which was 1.35 million acres, will shrink to 228,800 acres.
"These abuses of the Antiquities Act give enormous power to faraway bureaucrats at the expense of the people who actually live here, work here and make this place their home," Trump said.
The move could open the areas to potential commercial and resource development.
"I'm a real estate developer. When they start talking about millions of acres, I say, say it again. That's a lot," he told the crowd in Utah.
Trump was flanked by supporters of his move, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, whom he encouraged to seek an eighth term.
In the House, Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has proposed changing the Antiquities Act and also supports Trump's actions to shrink the monuments.
However, Native American tribes whose relationships to the monument areas date back centuries have been among the most critical of Trump's actions.