US President Donald Trump may soon revoke the protected status from Bears Ears National Monument, in southeastern Utah, opening parts of the area to mining and oil companies under a recommendation that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued on Thursday.
The monument, one of the 27 President Trump is taking a second look at, covers 1.3 million acres (about 5,260 square km), and it includes land considered sacred to Native Americans.
Former President Barack Obama designated it a national monument near the end of his time in office and if Trump decides to reopen it for commercial mining and drilling, it would be a direct blow to his predecessor’s environmental legacy, and the first major test of a century-old conservation law, The New York Times reports.
Shrinking the protected area or plainly abolishing its status of national monument is likely to be met vocal opposition from environmental groups, outdoor outfitters and Native American tribes, who argue federal protection is not only better for the environment, but better for the economy in a rural, economically depressed area of the Beehive State.
They have vowed to file lawsuits if Trump attempts to rescind or reduce the monument designations for Bears Ears and the other 26 sites under revision, AP reports.