Trump’s national monument rollbacks take effect

Trump’s national monument rollbacks take effect
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE’s actions to shrink two federally protected national monuments in southern Utah took effect Friday.

The controversial orders that Trump signed in December set Feb. 2 as their effective dates. The Bears Ears National Monument is now 16 percent of the size that former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKrystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans Sanders campaign announces it contacted over 1 million Iowa voters Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE created in 2015, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is just more than half its original size from when former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump sues to block NY prosecutors' subpoena for his tax returns Most voters say there is too much turnover in Trump administration RNC spokeswoman on 2020 GOP primary cancellations: 'This is not abnormal' MORE designated it in 1996.

The former monument areas are still federally owned and subject to federal standards for mining, drilling and other activities. But the protections are significantly lower, and many banned practices are now allowed.

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One major change is that, under an 1872 law, anybody who wants to can stake mining claims of up to 20 acres by putting metal stakes in the ground, posting a notice and paying a small fee to the Bureau of Land Management. They would then be allowed to mine it for hard rock minerals like gold and uranium.

“The most important immediate change is that the lands will once again be available for mining prospectors to get out on federal public lands and stake mining claims,” said Heidi McIntosh, an attorney with Earthjustice, which opposes the rollbacks and is suing to reverse them.

“Those prospecters could, as a result of their staking, get a possessory interest in federal public lands. And as long as they provide a nominal annual fee, they are entitled to engage in mining-related activity with very little federal veto,” she said.

“We’re working on getting information and new monument maps ready for people interested in claims,” Utah BLM spokesman Michael Richardson told Reuters.

It’s unclear if any miners would be interested in the sites. Uranium company Energy Fuels Resources Inc. lobbied the Trump administration to roll back Bears Ears, but the company has said it is not interested in mining within the former or current boundaries.

Numerous environmental groups, American Indian tribes, outdoor clothing company Patagonia Inc. and others are suing Trump over the monument rollbacks. They say the Antiquities Act does not permit presidents to significantly reduce protections, a claim the administration says is unfounded.