The shrinking in size of two national monuments in Utah by President Trump through executive order was a long overdue rebuke to federal land grabs that have enabled federal control of vast swaths of American land, particularly in the West. As the New York Times noted in 2016:
The United States government owns 47 percent of all land in the West. In some states, including Oregon, Utah and Nevada, the majority of land is owned by the federal government. Of course, it used to own nearly all of it….
East of the Mississippi… the federal government owns only 4 percent of land.
Part of that discrepancy is due to the vagaries of the Western expansion into the sparely populated frontier. Part of it is due to the desires of environmentalists to turn America into a save-the-earth postcard — take pictures and don’t touch. President Trump, who has unlocked much of America’s resources that were formerly held hostage by greenies and others, has decided to return to the people of Utah control of and decision-making power over the land of Utah, so you no longer need permission from a Beltway bureaucrat to pick up a rock and move it one foot to the left:
President Trump signed two proclamations Monday that shrink federally protected lands in Utah by about 2 million acres — the largest rollback of national monument designations in history.
The Bears Ears National Monument will shrink 85% to 201,876 acres, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will be cut by 39% to 1 million acres…
Trump said previous presidents overstepped their authority in declaring vast tracts of western lands off-limits, abusing the “purpose, spirit and intent” of a 1906 law known as the Antiquities Act. That law requires presidents to limit the monument designation to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
“These abuses of the Antiquities Act give enormous power to faraway bureaucrats at the expense of the people who actually live here, work here, and make this place their home,” Trump said in Salt Lake City Monday.
One of those presidents was one William Jefferson Clinton. Although the Trump orders only refer to lifting restrictions on motorized vehicles and grazing rights, much of the land involved is energy-rich and was put off limits by President Clinton to deprive Americans access to those resources and to reward a political donor.
A large part of America’s energy dependence on foreign sources can be traced back to September 18, 1996, when Hillary’s co-president hubby Bill Clinton stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon on the Arizona side and signed an executive proclamation making 1.7 million acres of Utah a new national monument, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument:
President Clinton officially set aside 1.7 million acres of Utah canyon lands Wednesday as a national monument, with some concessions to Utah authorities who complained the move would stunt the local economy and block a job-generating coal mine.
Standing against the sweeping backdrop of the Grand Canyon, Clinton declared that in creating the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument “we are keeping faith with the future… On this remarkable site, God’s handiwork is everywhere.”
But officials trod carefully around the issue of the planned coal mine, which was to be
dug by Andalex Resources, a Dutch company, on a leased site on the Kaiparowits Plateau, considered one of the new monument’s most remote and valuable sites. Under current plans, 50% of the coal mined from the plateau would be exported from the Port of Los Angeles.
In his remarks, Clinton implied that he intended to block the mine, which some have said could produce high quality coal with a value of $1 trillion.
So why would he dedicate a Utah monument while standing in Arizona? Well, this federal land grab was done without any consultation with the governor of Utah or any member of the Utah congressional delegation or any elected official in the state. The state already had six national monuments, two national recreation areas, and all or part of five national forests. Three-quarters of Utah was in already in federal hands.
It was sold as a move to protect the environment. At the time the Clintons were worried that Ralph Nader’s presence on the ballot in a few Western states would draw green votes from Clinton in a race that promised to be close after the GOP retook Congress two years earlier.
Bill Clinton’s unilateral land grab in Utah declaring 1.7 million acres a national monument and placing off-limits to an energy starved United States up to 62 billion tons of environmentally safe low sulfur coal worth $1.2 trillion that could have been mined with minimal surface impact was in fact a political payoff to the family of James Riady.
James Riady was the son of Lippo Group owner Mochtar Riady. Young James was found guilty of and paid a multi-million dollar fine for funneling more than $1 million in illegal political contributions through Lippo Bank into various American political campaigns, including Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential run. Connect the dots. Riady’s relationship between the Clintons, would be long and corrupt, even extending to donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Clinton took off the world market the largest known deposit of clean-burning coal. Who owned and controlled the second-largest deposit in the world? The Indonesian Lippo Group of James Riady. It is found and strip-mined on the Indonesian island of Kalamantan.
The Utah reserve contains the kind of low-sulfur, low-ash, and therefore low-polluting coal the likes of which can be found in only a couple of places in the world. It burns so cleanly that it meets the requirements of the Clean Air Act without additional technology.
“The mother of all land grabs,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said at the time. Hatch has called what was designated as the Grande Staircase of the Escalante National Monument the “Saudi Arabia of coal.”
When Clinton signed the proclamation, he promised to exchange other federal lands for the land that was taken. Hatch said a fair exchange was impossible, since no other land in Utah had a trillion dollars worth of clean coal.
Rep. James Hansen (R-UT) pointed out that a large portion of the coal-rich Kaiparowits plateau within the monument belonged to the schoolchildren of Utah. When Utah became a state in 1896, about 220,000 acres were set aside to benefit the schools of Utah. Upon the state’s founding, a trust fund was created to collect and hold directly for the benefit of the state schools all the revenues generated from developing this land.
Margaret Bird, trust officer for the fund, said that because the land will not be developed, the schoolchildren of Utah stood to lose as much as $1 billion over the next 50 years. Phyllis Sorensen, head of the Utah chapter of the National Education Association, called Clinton’s action “felonious assault,” charging that “they are stealing from the schoolchildren of Utah.” Stealing from children to reward Indonesian billionaire donors is a move typical of the Clintons.
Before there was the pay-for-play Clinton Foundation, and the putting up of American national security for sale in the Uranium One deal with Russia, there was Bill Clinton creating the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a monument to Bill and Hillary’s monumental corruption.
Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.