Reducing Antiquities Act Land Grabs
The Antiquities Act was intended to protect areas of historic, prehistoric or scientific value, and lands designated as monuments were to be "the smallest size compatible with the proper care and management" of objects or sites to be protected. Its goal is to safeguard fossils, unique plants and habitats, Native artifacts and sites, geologic structures and special scenic areas from damage, desecration and looting.
The first national monument ever designated (the 1,347-acre Devils Tower) respected the law's language and intent, as have most designations since then. However, in recent decades presidents have increasingly used the act to circumvent Congress and replace proper legislative processes with executive decrees. They established enormous de facto wilderness areas with the stroke of a pen - usually with little or no consultation with people and elected officials in communities that would be most severely impacted.
It is these abuses that Messrs. Zinke and Trump sought to correct. In so doing, they followed decisions by Presidents Coolidge, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Taft and Wilson, who also reduced the size of previous monument designations. The Utah changes address arguably the greatest onshore Antiquities Act abuses.