President Donald Trump has dramatically scaled back two public outdoor parks, or national monuments, in Utah.
He declared an 85% cut to the state’s 1.3m acre Bears Ears National Monument and a 50% cut to its 1.9m acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Native American tribes and environmental groups say they will file lawsuits against the policy.
But it will be welcomed by ranchers and business interests who view such monuments as federal land grabs.
Speaking in the capitol building in Salt Lake City, Mr Trump said: “Some people think the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington.
“And guess what, they’re wrong,” Mr Trump said.
He said former presidents had “severely abused” the law by declaring swathes of territory off limits to drilling, mining, grazing, road traffic and other activities.
Mr Trump said: “I’ve come to Utah to take a very historic action, to reverse federal over-reach and to restore the rights of this land to your citizens.”
During his visit to Utah, the president does not plan to visit either scenic area, White House officials say.
Environmental groups reacted angrily to Mr Trump’s announcement. “This is a shameful and illegal attack on our nation’s protected lands”, said Jamie Clark, the chief executive of Defenders of Wildlife, a non-profit organisation.
“It’s not surprising that the Trump administration moved to sell out our national monuments. What is surprising is that they seem to think they can get away with it. We’ll be seeing President Trump in court”, he said.
Source: BBC News