Trump takes rare step to reduce 2 national monuments in Utah

FILE - This May 30, 1997 file photo shows the varied terrain of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near Boulder, Utah. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, File)

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Two national monuments in Utah that President Donald Trump is going to significantly reduce include ancient cliff dwellings and scenic canyons as well as areas that could be used for energy development. 

Trump made his announcement about Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments during a speech Monday in Salt Lake City. The sites were among 27 that Trump ordered U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review this year.

Here is a closer look at the two monuments:

Barack Obama created the monument shortly before leaving the White House, marking a victory for Native Americans and conservationists. It was a blow to Republican leaders who campaigned to prevent what they call a layer of unnecessary federal control that hurts local economies by closing the area to new energy development.

Tucked between existing national parks and the Navajo Nation, the monument is on land considered sacred to a coalition of tribes and is home to an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites. Tribal members visit the area to perform ceremonies, collect herbs and wood for medicinal and spiritual purposes, and do healing rituals.

The monument features a mix of cliffs, plateaus, towering rock formations, rivers and canyons. It brings visitors to enjoy hiking, backpacking, canyoneering, mountain biking and rock climbing.

As president, Bill Clinton created the monument in 1996 to preserve scenic cliffs, canyons, waterfalls and arches. Actor and Utah resident Robert Redford appeared at the ceremony.

In heavily Republican Utah, the move was viewed as federal overreach that still irks GOP officials. Many Utah Republicans and some residents say it closed off too many areas to development -- including one of the country's largest known coal reserves -- that could have helped pay for schools.

Zinke noted in a memo to Trump that "several billion tons of coal and large oil deposits" lie within the monument's boundaries. He also said that while the amount of cattle grazing allowed there is the same as it was in 1996, the number of cows has decreased because of restrictions on moving water lines, vegetation management and maintenance of fences and roads.