SALT LAKE CITY — Full page ads in the national editions of the Washington Post and New York Times are stepping up the campaign to save a pair of national monuments in Utah, putting the heat on President Donald Trump to leave them alone.
The Thursday ads taken out by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance question if Trump's legacy will measure up to that of another New York Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, and the first U.S. president to declare a national monument under the Antiquities Act.
"We must safeguard spectacular American landscapes like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante so Americans can forever hunt, fish, graze livestock and explore these lands that belong to us all," the ad reads. "That's how President Theodore Roosevelt secured his place in history. Will President Trump tarnish his by devaluing these national treasures? Or will he protect what truly makes America great?"
The ads come on the heels of a four-day visit to Utah by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who is conducting a review of 27 national monuments as the result of an executive order signed by Trump in April.
The order asks for a probe to determine if the designations comply with the provisions of the Antiquities Act, which was passed by Congress in 1906 out a desire to protect antiquities — or cultural artifacts — from looting and vandalism.
Critics of the act say U.S. presidents over time have set aside huge swaths of land in political posturing or pandering to special interests, going far beyond the original intent of the law.
Roosevelt's monument designation for Grand Canyon was 800,000 acres; his first at Devils Tower was 1,200 acres.
In his review of Utah monuments and specifically Bears Ears, Zinke was directed to meet with local officials to discuss issues surrounding the late December designation of the 1.35-million acre monument. While the overall review was established with a time frame for recommendations 120 days out, Zinke has a June 10 deadline to deliver his views on what should happen with Bears Ears.
Environmental groups and Native American tribes accused Zinke of conducting a one-sided tour designed to hear only the voice of monument critics.
"It's clear that President Trump has primarily heard the anti-public lands rhetoric of the Utah delegation to date," said Mathew Gross, media director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
Gross said the ads highlight another viewpoint.
"We felt it was important to remind President Trump, even before he receives Secretary Zinke's report, that other presidents have seen through such short-sighted rhetoric and have chosen to preserve public lands, and history has looked favorably upon those presidents who have looked beyond the present moment and done the right thing for future generations."
The ad points out Roosevelt's designation of the Grand Canyon monument at the time brought protests of a "land grab" by Arizona's congressional delegation, but now it is revered as a "living symbol" of America.
Utah's congressional delegation, Gov. Gary Herbert and impacted county commissioners say they don't dispute the need for protection of some landscapes in the Bears Ears region and at Grand Staircase, but they object to the size of the designations.
Both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments make up more than 5,000 square miles combined.