November 17, 2016 - House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) urged President-elect Donald Trump to abolish the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and other sites unilaterally protected by previous presidents.
"Just because somebody who created mistakes like the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument says you can't do it, or you shouldn't do it, or it's questionable — bull crap," Bishop told reporters.
He was referring to legal questions surrounding the permanence of national monuments established by presidents under the authority of the Antiquities Act.
While the 1906 law contains provisions for adjusting the boundaries of monuments, it doesn't speak to whether or how presidents could undo the land or water protections granted by their predecessors. And no presidents have tested the limits of their authority with respect to existing monuments.
"The fact that you can modify a monument, that's OK, means you can also just rescind a monument," argued Bishop, who like many Utahans resents the Grand Staircase monument, created two decades ago in the Beehive State by President Clinton.
"It's never been done before, and that's why people are saying you can't do it," he added. "Of course you can do it. It's always been implied."
Referring to the 28 monuments President Obama has created or expanded so far, Bishop said "you can rescind all of those."
Bishop's comments hint at an emerging battle over protections for public lands that could be a major source of conflict in the coming years.
Some Democrats have already pledged to staunchly oppose any effort by Trump or the Republican-controlled Congress to shrink the federal estate. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) stated that "if any administration thinks they're going to start divesting us of a hundred-year history of lands that belong to every American, they're going to have to do it over my dead body”.