In a potentially massive overhaul of the federal Antiquities Act and presidential designations made under it over the last 20 years, President Trump has issued an executive order calling on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review 20 years of monument designations. Stretching back to the second Clinton administration, the list of monuments will be reviewed along with new public comments to determine whether they should be “rescinded, resized or modified in order to better benefit our public lands.”
The list released on Friday, May 5, includes 22 monuments on federal land and five marine monuments in both the Pacific and Atlantic, including the massive Hawaiian islands reserve established under President George W. Bush in 2006 — a week after the 100th anniversary of the Antiquities Act — and expanded by President Barack Obama in 2016, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, which was established in 2016 and was the first of its kind in the Atlantic Ocean.
Zinke's preliminary report is expected sometime in June with a final report due within 120 days of the order. The order calls for review of monuments 100,000 acres or larger, with the exception of Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters (which stands at 87,500 acres) donated to the federal government by Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby’s foundation.
The Antiquities Act was established to give presidents the authority to restrict use of federal land. It does not, however, explicitly authorize presidents to rescind prior designations. If Trump does roll back protections for these areas, he will be the first president to do so.
Like others before it, this Trump executive order is likely to face legal scrutiny as activist groups gear up to challenge the administration in the courts, should the review lead to changes in any designations.
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the Interior Department, tweeted on April 26 that the president “doesn’t have the legal authority to rescind a national monument designation. If he tries to, I’ll fight him every step of the way.”