US President Donald Trump ordered the largest reduction of public protected lands in US history by taking more than 9,200 square kilometers out of two parks in Utah, a measure praised by state conservatives and harshly condemned by ecologists and native tribes.
In a visit to Salt Lake City (Utah), Trump ordered to substantially decrease the surface area of the two national monuments - natural lands protected by the federal government - that had been protected by his Democratic predecessors, Barack Obama (2009-2017) and Bill Clinton (1993- 2001).
The president reduced the territory of Bears Ears by about 85%, an extensive protected area created by Obama last year, and cut almost 46% of the surface of Grand Staircase-Escalante, a park protected in 1996 by Clinton.
US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters that the goal of the White House is to open the territory that was previously protected to facilitate the public use of its roads and pastures, as well as to "healthy hunting and fishing."
To be specific, Bears Ears will go from its nearly 1.5 million acres (6,075 square kilometers) it has currently to just 201,876 acres (817 square kilometers); and will be divided into two protected areas that will be isolated from each other.
Meanwhile, Grand Staircase-Escalante will go from having almost 2 million protected acres (8,100 square kilometers) to around 1 million (4,050 square kilometers), and will be split into three areas.
The measure drew criticism from several environmental organizations, and at least one of them, the Foundation for Land Conservation, plans to file a lawsuit to try to undo Trump's decision.
The five tribes that pushed for federal protection of Bears Ears - the Hopi, the Navajo Nation, the Mountain Ute Tribe, the Zuni People and the Indian Ute Tribe - are also expected to sue the Trump Government as well.
This weekend, thousands rallied in Salt Lake City to protest Trump's proposal to cut the size of the federally protected #BearsEars a sacred site to SW Tribe's. Trump is on route to Utah where he is expected to make to announcement, energy companies have pushed for this pic.twitter.com/a0s99V3B0F— Matt Remle (@wakiyan7) December 4, 2017
Thousands are protesting at the south steps of the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah against Trump's plan to eliminate vast portions of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. #resist pic.twitter.com/vpZ1Xmukv4— SeriouslyUS? (@USseriously) December 2, 2017
Thousands of people are rallying to #StandWithBearsEars & #SaveGrandStaircase outside the capitol building in Salt Lake City! You can help - TAKE ACTION https://t.co/nVVZx9XqIA & attend a rally near you https://t.co/pUepp9rY8K pic.twitter.com/Z8KshPR8ii— Sierra Club (@SierraClub) December 4, 2017