President Donald Trump signed an executive order at the Department of the Interior Wednesday directing the review of federally designated lands to determine if the federal government should relinquish ownership to states.
Specifically, the review will consider all national monument designations of federal public lands since 1996 that are 100,000 acres or larger. Mr Trump singled out former President Barack Obama’s “egregious” use of federal power in using the Antiquities Act to “unilaterally” place swaths of American land and water under federal control, adding, “it’s time we ended this abusive practice.”
“Today we are putting the states back in charge, that’s a big thing,” said Mr. Trump, flanked by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Vice President Mike Pence.
Mr. Trump said Utah. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch -- who was at the signing -- prompted him to review the issue. In Hatch’s state, the federal government owns 63 percent of the land, according to a March Congressional Research Service report.
“This is a big one,” Mr. Trump said before signing the order.
Environmental groups have criticized Mr. Trump’s efforts to reconsider federal land ownership.
“The Antiquities Act, along with other tools like National Parks designation, have kept intact the jewels that define the American landscape,” World Wildlife Fund President and CEO Carter Roberts said in a statement issued Wednesday morning. “As the rest of the world increases the protection of landscapes and seascapes fundamental to their cultures and economies, this is no time for us to begin revisiting such provisions as a way of stripping those protections in the future.”
Mr. Trump has made extensive use of executive orders as he tries to hastily roll back Obama-era regulations and accomplish as much of his agenda as possible before his first 100 days in office draw to a close Saturday. He is expected to sign 32 executive orders -- more than any president in decades -- by Friday, his 99th day in office, the White House told the Associated Press.