US govt cuts sizes of two national monuments

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The US government has considerably reduced the sizes of two wilderness national monuments in Utah, drawing criticism from environmentalists and applause from those who support grazing, mining, industrial and other business development in these areas.

President Donald Trump passed the order under the centuries-old Antiquities Act, a law meant to protect sacred sites, artefacts and historical objects, which gives the US president control over them.

While the 1.3-million-acre (0.5 million hectare) Bears Ears National Monument would be reduced by 80 %, the 1.9-million-acre (768,900-hectare) Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, will be cut nearly in half.

Trump justified the move saying that he wanted to reduce the bureaucratic control over them, and it will give local communities accessing the land for hunting and grazing.

The executive order was immediately challenged in a federal court in Washington by groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and others.

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