President Trump will on Monday announce plans to slash the size of two US national parks, provoking fury from environmentalists, Native American tribes and conservationists.
Leaked maps revealed proposals to shrink boundaries at Bears Ears national park from 1.3 million acres to 201,000 acres while Grand Staircase Escalante will be slashed by half to just under one million acres.
Both parks, or monuments as they are called, are in the dramatic Southern Utah red rock country.
The changes will make way for oil and gas drilling, mining and other resource extraction activities in the beauty spot.
Mr Trump will travel to Salt Lake City to make the announcement at a rally on Monday. A protest is being organized by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and on Saturday, thousands of demonstrators holding signs with messages like “Protect Wild Utah” converged on the steps of the Utah State Capitol..
The president had previously called for a review of more than two dozen national monuments that had been created over the past few decades to address the complaints of some politicians and local people who had objected to their designations which protected the areas from development.
Before President Barack Obama left office he designated more than 1.6 million acres of land in Utah and Nevada as national monuments, protecting two areas rich in Native American artifacts from mining, oil and gas drilling.
Mr Trump called the move an “egregious abuse of power”.
Utah has gone well beyond any other in the region in trying to pry the federal government’s hands-off land it sees as belonging to its residents.
In 2012, its Legislature passed a law demanding the federal government give 30 million acres (121,000 square kilometers) of the land it owns in Utah to the state government – a measure other Western states have balked at replicating, even deeply conservative ones like Idaho.
Earlier this year, a Utah congressman introduced a bill to sell more than 4,600 square miles of Western federal land to private entities but pulled it after a backlash.
“Utah’s certainly on the tip of the spear,” said state Congressman Mike Noel, who represents south-central Utah, where some residents have fought to shrink or eliminate Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument since President Bill Clinton created it in 1996.
Compiled and Published by GIB KNIGHT
Gib Knight is a private oil and gas investor and consultant, providing clients advanced analytics and building innovative visual business intelligence solutions to visualize the results, across a broad spectrum of regulatory filings and production data in Oklahoma and Texas. He is the founder of OklahomaMinerals.com, an online resource designed for mineral owners in Oklahoma.