President Donald Trump will sign executive orders this week aimed at expanding offshore oil drilling and reviewing national monument designations made by his predecessors, continuing the Republican's assault on Democratic President Barack Obama's environmental legacy. The orders could expand oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans and upend public lands protections put in place in Utah, Maine, and other states, the AP reports. The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the president to declare federal lands of historic or scientific value to be "national monuments" and restrict how the lands can be used. Obama used his power under the Antiquities Act to permanently preserve more land and water using national monument designations than any other president. The land is generally off limits to timber harvesting, mining and pipelines, and commercial development.
Utah Republicans were infuriated when Obama created the Bears Ears National Monument in December on more than 1 million acres of land that's sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings. Republicans also objected when Obama created the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine last summer on 87,500 acres of donated forestland. The expanse includes part of the Penobscot River and stunning views of Mount Katahdin, Maine's tallest mountain. Republicans have asked Trump to reverse the two designations, saying they add an unnecessary layer of federal control and could stymie commercial development. Trump's staff has been reviewing the decisions to determine economic impacts, whether the law was followed, and whether there was appropriate consultation with local officials. Sources tell the Salt Lake Tribune the review Trump will order was prompted by the Bears Ears designation but will look at designations as far back as Bill Clinton's presidency. (Read more Bears Ears National Monument stories.)