In the final days of his presidency, Barack Obama has just designated over 1.6 million acres of U.S. land as national monuments in order to restrict drilling for oil.
The two national monuments he named were The Bears Ears National Monument in Utah that covers 1.35 million acres, and the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada that covers 300,000 acres.
“Today’s actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes,” Obama said in a statement.
According to Politico, Obama is attempting to protect his legacy, not artifacts and fossils:
For Obama, creating the monuments is part of his environmental legacy, and one that’s likely to be more permanent than his administration’s regulations to fight climate change, like EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is likely to be gutted under the Trump administration.
“The Antiquities Act gives the president the authority to create monuments but does not provide explicit authority to undo them,” said Christy Goldfuss, managing director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, when asked by reporters whether she was concerned the Trump administration would scrap the Bears Ears monument.
The designations, Goldfuss said, would block any new mining or oil and gas development on the land.
Obama has angered many members of the GOP with these designations, and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) is one of them.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Lee said he is going to do anything in his power to overturn these monument designations.
“I’m going to do everything I can to work with the new Congress, and to work with the incoming Trump administration, to undo this monument designation. But I’m not going to stop there. I’m gonna do what I can also to repeal the Antiquities Act so that things like this can’t happen — not in Utah, and not elsewhere in the future.”
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