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The tribes argue that federal law only gives presidents the ability to create a national monument, not the ability to downsize one.

Two lawsuits also have been filed to try to block the Grand Staircase decision, which cuts the monument nearly in half. Grand Staircase contains scenic cliffs, canyons, waterfalls and arches — and one of the nation’s largest known coal reserves.

The

two monuments were created by Democrats Barack Obama and Bill Clinton under a century-old law that allows presidents to protect sites considered historically, geographically or culturally important.

Trump acted on a recommendation by Zinke, who also has urged that two other large national monuments in the West be reduced in size, potentially opening up thousands of acres of land revered for natural beauty and historical significance to mining, logging and other development.

The interior secretary’s plan would scale back Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou, in addition to the two Utah sites.

Zinke said Tuesday he would focus changes in Gold Butte on the site’s water districts. Gold Butte protects nearly 300,000 acres of desert landscapes featuring rock art, sandstone towers and wildlife habitat for the threatened Mojave Desert tortoise and other species.

Zinke declined to specify how many acres he wants to remove from monument status, stressing that the administration is working with Nevada’s governor and congressional delegation to find a solution.


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