President Donald Trump has signed proclamations to formally scale back two sprawling national monuments in Utah: Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante.
Trump traveled to Salt Lake City to make the announcement and sign the declarations. The move is supported by Utah's top Republican officials but opposed by tribes and environmental groups.
Trump said in a speech Monday at the Utah State Capitol that past presidential administrations had "severely abused" the purpose and spirit of a federal law that allows them to protect public lands by turning them into national monuments.
Trump says his action means that "public lands will once again be for public use."
The Republican chairman of House Natural Resources Committee is applauding the resident’s action for reversing what he called "abuses" of the Antiquities Act by former Democratic presidents.
Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah says proclamations that Trump signed "are a first step toward protecting identified antiquities without disenfranchising the local people who work and manage these areas.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats says Trump is undermining "the preservation of some of this country's most important national monuments" by removing protections for more than 2 million acres (3,125 square miles) of public lands.
Demonstrators were blocking traffic on a major Salt Lake City street during the visit by the president.
The largely peaceful crowd that lined up near the state Capitol for hours in the snow Monday morning started marching downtown as Trump finished announcing the cuts to the national monuments.
The crowd of about 3,000 protesters carried signs saying "Protect Utah's Wild Lands" and chanting "Lock him up." They took to the streets after some took a knee, thumped their chests in unison and turned their backs.
Riot police earlier cleared protesters from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Welfare Square where the president visited Monday morning with LDS church leadership. Trump spoke briefly and publicly praised the church for the way it takes care of people.