Regional News: These southern Utah sites were once off limits to development. Now, Trump will auction the right to drill and graze there.

The sun sets over Bears Ears National Monument seen from the Moki Dugway north of Mexican Hat, Utah.  /Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

By Sarah Kaplan and Juliet Eilperin | Washington Post

The Interior Department finalized plans Thursday that will expand drilling, mining and grazing in southern Utah that had once been protected as two national monuments, sparking an outcry from tribal groups and conservationists.

The decision comes more than two years after Trump dramatically cut the size of the monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, and will likely intensify a legal fight over the contested sites.

The expanses of windswept badlands, narrow slot canyons and towering rock formations are sacred to several Native American nations and prized by scientists and outdoor enthusiasts. Bears Ears contains tens of thousands of cultural artifacts and rare rock art; in the rock layers of Grand Staircase, researchers have unearthed 75 million-year-old dinosaur fossils.

But the lands also harbor significant amounts of oil, gas and coal the administration hopes to develop, as well as grazing land valued by local ranchers.

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