ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order tomorrow that could end up shrinking or even abolishing altogether some protected national monuments on federal public land. These monuments were designated by presidential decree under a 1906 law called the Antiquities Act. The monuments are controversial in the rural West.
NPR's Kirk Siegler joins us now from NPR West in Culver City, Calif. And Kirk, unpack what is in this executive order for us.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Well, this is potentially sweeping, Ari. But at its core, it gives the interior secretary Ryan Zinke 45 days to review national monuments that are a hundred thousand acres or bigger - these are big chunks of federal public land - and recommend whether they should be kept as is, whether they should be shrunk or even nullified altogether.
And this is really widely seen as a direct response to two national monument designations in particular that were made in the late hour of the Obama administration. And these were controversial. There was the Bears Ears Monument in southern Utah which is about a million acres of federal public land considered sacred to Native American tribes. And then you had the Gold Butte Monument designation in Nevada which is near - adjacent to Cliven Bundy's ranch. And he's the anti-federal government rancher who led an armed standoff over cattle grazing.
SHAPIRO: But beyond those two monuments, it sounds as though this order could apply to many more federal lands than that.
SIEGLER: At the White House this evening, briefing reporters, Secretary Zinke estimated he'd be looking at up to 40 national monuments under the executive order. And we're talking about monuments that were designated as far back as the Clinton administration. This goes back to 1996, he said. This is a fight and a conflict over federal land that goes back a long time. Zinke, though, was quick to say that this is just a review. Nothing is final. So let's hear a little bit from that briefing now.
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RYAN ZINKE: The executive order does not strip any monument of a designation. The executive order does not loosen any environmental or conservation regulation on any land or marine areas.
SIEGLER: And, Ari, I think the big point here is that this is potentially untested territory if in fact the executive branch, the administration goes forward on its own without the authority of Congress to either nullify or abolish a national monument or even shrink one. This is something that has not been tested yet in the courts. Secretary Zinke has said as much. And it's widely thought that if in fact this goes beyond a review, environmental groups, tribes are going to challenge this right away.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Kirk Siegler. Thank you, Kirk.
SIEGLER: Glad to be here.
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