Trump to review power to establish federal lands

President Donald Trump will order a review of the 1906 law that gives the president of the United States power to set aside lands for federal protection, administration officials tell CNN, setting into motion a process that could see the Trump administration rescind the protection of lands designated by former President Barack Obama.

Trump will sign the executive order Wednesday at the Interior Department, Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters. The order could lead to the reshaping of roughly 30 national monuments that were designated by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama after 1996.

At the heart of this proposal is Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.3-million-acre parcel of lands that includes world-class rock climbing, age-old cliff dwellings and land sacred to Pueblo Indians that Obama designated a monument in 2016.

Zinke said Tuesday in a briefing with reporters that he will make a recommendation on the contested parcel of land in 45 days and later provided Trump will a fuller report.

“We feel that the public, the people that monuments affect, should be considered and that is why the President is asking for a review of the monuments designated in the last 20 years,” Zinke said, adding that he believes the review is “long overdue.”

Utah Republicans, angry that Obama designated the land for federal protection, have called on the Trump administration to remove the protection and give the parcel back to the state — possibly to authorize drilling. But that action has been met with vocal opposition from environmental groups, outdoor outfitters and Native Americans who argue federal protection is not only better for the environment, but better for the economy in a rural, economically depressed area of the Beehive State.

“The policy is consistent with President Trump’s promise to give American’s a voice and make sure their voices are heard,” the interior secretary added, arguing that the order “restores the trust between local communities and Washington” and lets rural America know “states will have a voice” in land designation.

That argument is largely dismissed by the White House.

“Past administrations have overused this power and designated large swaths of land well beyond the areas in need of protection,” a White House official said Tuesday. “The Antiquities Act Executive Order directs the Department of the Interior to review prior monument designations and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monument proclamations.”

The move by Trump will not resolve the Bears Ears issue. Instead, it will set up a process to review the designation and make a decision at a later date. But groups that support keeping Bears Ears in federal control believe the Trump administration’s decision, led by Zinke, is the first step in the process to give the land back to Utah.

Rose Marcario, president and CEO of the outdoor outfitter Patagonia, said the review “is an assault on America’s most treasured lands and oceans.”

“Bears Ears and other national monuments were designated after significant community input because they are a critical part of our national heritage and have exceptional ecological characteristics worth protecting for future generations,” Marcario said. “It’s extremely disturbing to see the Trump administration apparently laying the groundwork to remove protections on our public lands.”

Zinke said he is prepared for legal challenges from environmental groups — “I am not in fear of getting sued, I get sued all the time,” he said — but acknowledged that it is “untested” whether the President has the power to shrink public lands by using the Antiquities Act.

And there are likely to be legal challenges. Marcario told CNN Patagonia was “preparing to take every step necessary, including possible legal action” in order to protect Bears Ears and other national monuments.

Republicans in Utah, including Gov. Gary Herbert, have asked the Trump administration to rescind the National Monument status for Bear Ears, arguing the designation infringes on their state’s rights. Herbert signed a resolution in February that urged Trump to rescind Bear Ears’ status.

Led by Utah Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart in Washington, along with Sen. Orrin Hatch, Republicans are urging Congress to withhold money for the national monument in response to the designation.

Mining companies have also been eager for a decision. EOG Resources, a Texas-based company, was recently approved to drill near Bears Ears. And activists are worried that the area, which is rich in natural resources, could be offered up to oil companies if it is de-listed.

Hatch said in response to Trump’s forthcoming order that he is “committed to rolling back the egregious abuse of the Antiquities Act to serve far-left special interests.”

Hatch’s opponents argue that withholding funds or rescinding the Antiquities Act order would impact San Juan County, Utah, where more than 28% of the population lives below the poverty level.

The group Public Land Solutions, a pro-federal designation group, said in a recent report that the economic benefits of Bears Ears to the area should outweigh any benefits with mineral or oil extraction.

“Show me the money,” said Ashley Korenblat from Public Land Solutions. “We are confident that a fact-based review of the national parks and public lands protected as monuments by the Antiquities Act will show year-over-year economic growth.”

Bears Ears is not the only site that has experienced a push to give up federal protection.

Republicans in Maine, including Gov. Paul LePage, have asked Trump to stop national monument status for Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, an expansive piece of land that includes much of the Penobscot River watershed. Like Bears Ears, that parcel was designated a national monument by Obama in 2016.

The order will review any monument created between Grand Staircase Escalante in September 1996 to Bears Ears in 2016 that impact more than 100,000 acres or more. Under this designation, Katahdin Woods and Waters — an expansive piece of land in Maine that includes much of the Penobscot River watershed that was enacted by Obama in 2016 — would not be reviewed, despite the calls.

The monuments the Trump administration will review include Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Basin and Range National Monument, as well as a host of Pacific Ocean monuments, including the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. All but one of the monuments set to be reviewed is west of the Mississippi.

Should Trump and his administration opt to de-list these sites, they would be going back on some off their promises to both voters and members of Congress who oversaw Zinke’s confirmation process.

“I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great,” Trump said in January 2015 during an interview with Field & Stream when asked about transferring public lands to state control. Donald Trump, Jr. has also said he is in favor of “refunding” federal lands to keep them out of private control.

Those views aren’t in line with much Republican orthodoxy, which has long said the federal government should control less land, not more.

But Trump isn’t the only Republican who expressed this view: Zinke also told senators during his confirmation process that he was against giving public lands back to the states.

“I am absolutely against transfer and sale of public lands. I can’t be more clear,” he said when Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, asked if, under Trump, federal land would be “unbelievable attack by those who would like to take these public lands away from us and turn them over back to states.”

Zinke stood by that statement Tuesday, arguing that it is wrong to suggest the review will lead to the transfer of public lands.

“I think that argument is false,” he said, blaming “modern media” for the polarized views on Bears Ears.

Cantwell said Tuesday that Trump’s decision to de-list would be “illegal” and faulted Zinke and others for doing the “bidding” for coal and natural resource companies.

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First tropical depression of 2017 forms in Atlantic Ocean

The first tropical depression of 2017 formed Thursday morning in the Atlantic Ocean.

A subtropical cyclone that formed Wednesday strengthened to become the first tropical storm of the year, but it does not pose a threat to the United States.

Tropical depression No. 1 was moving northwest at 14 mph with maximum sustained winds at 35 mph.

“It’s just hanging around in the northern Atlantic over very cool waters,” Local 10 News meteorologist Jennifer Correa said.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami forecasts the tropical depression to dissipate by Thursday night or Friday.

“Not a concern to us, and it is very far away,” Correa said.

This is the third consecutive year that a storm has formed before the official start of hurricane season, which begins June 1. Tropical Storm Ana formed in May 2015 and Hurricane Alex formed in January 2016.

Be sure to download the Local 10 Hurricane Survival Guide to keep you safe before, during and after a storm. 

Remember to stay up to date on the all the latest storm news by downloading the Max Tracker app for iOS and ANDROID.

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Delta’s woes persist through weekend, with more flights canceled

Delta Air Lines, still working to get back to normal days after thunderstorms blew through the eastern US on Wednesday, had to scrub about 275 more flights on Saturday.The No. 2 US airline, which already canceled around 3,000 flights in the wake of the…

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‘Below Average’ hurricane season forecast for 2017

Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University are forecasting a slightly below average 2017 hurricane season in their annual predictions.

In their first predictions of the year, the CSU team is predicting 11 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, including four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

The report claims the probability of a major hurricane making landfall on the East Coast of the U.S., including South Florida, to be at 24 percent. The average over the last century has been 31 percent.

The forecast of a slightly below average season is due to the potential of a weak to moderate El Niño developing during the peak of the season.

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However, team members caution all residents to not let their guard down despite the below average forecast.

“It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season,” said Michael Bell, associate professor in CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Science.

The team will issue an updated forecast on June 1.

The 2017 hurricane season begins on June 1 and runs through November 30.

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More severe weather expected in Alabama, Georgia

Southeastern states are likely to see another round of severe thunderstorms, damaging winds and possible tornadoes Wednesday, forecasters said.

Storms will erupt in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and several Southern states. The worst weather could stretch from Alabama to South Carolina.

A system of storms will affect Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina before moving into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.

Strong winds and baseball-size hail are expected in parts of Alabama.

In most of Georgia, forecasters say damaging winds will begin in the morning and extend into the afternoon. There’s also a chance for isolated tornadoes and hail, National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Sena told CNN.

The severe weather could last for a longer period of time than Monday’s storms and mainly impact cities such as Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia, before it moves north by the end of the day, Sena said.

At least five people died as a severe storm system swept through several Southern states over the weekend and on Monday.

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