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Moving Within These U.S. Cities? Open Your Wallet

The Free Press WV

Ready to pack up and move—but maybe not too far? If you’re looking for a better school district or just a fresh new start in a nearby neighborhood, 24/7 Wall St. looked at how much it costs to move within 100 of the largest US metro areas. To determine the most expensive areas, the site looked at two key metrics: the median cost of one month’s rent and security deposit for a three-bedroom housing unit, based on US Census data, and the approximate moving costs within the most populated ZIP code in the main city for each metro region. Here, the cities rounding out the top 10, as well as the average total cost to move within a certain metro area, what the first month’s rent and deposit will set you back, and the cost of living:

  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.: $5,798, $4,496, 24.1% (greater than nation)
  2. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.: $5,302, $3,996, 21.9%
  3. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.: $5,190, $3,884, 16.1%
  4. San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif.: $5,098, $3,778, 16.6%
  5. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif.: $4,962, $3,658, 17.6%
  6. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-Va.-Md.-WV: $4,926, $3,636, 19.1%
  7. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.: $4,921, $3,510, 20.1%
  8. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-Penn.: $4,631, $3,130, 21.9%
  9. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.-NH: $4,450, $3,144, 10.3%
  10. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.: $4,395, $3,110, 9.4%
Read the full list HERE.

Mueller produced wealth of documents in Manafort, Gates case

The Free Press WV

Special counsel Robert Mueller has produced hundreds of thousands of documents, copied 36 electronic devices and 2,000 “hot” documents in the government’s case against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

Mueller’s investigators made copies of cell phones and hard drives and submitted 15 search warrants and other requests in their investigation of Trump’s former campaign chairman and his deputy.

The scope of the documents is outlined in a new court filing detailing what evidence the government collected in building its case against Manafort and Gates. The filing explains what documents and evidence were provided to the defense teams as part of the discovery process.

The filing gives a rare peek into the tactics used by federal investigators, but stops short of detailing the contents of the evidence.

U.S. cracks down on firms making predatory mortgages to veterans

The Free Press WV

The U.S. is taking steps to stamp out the practice of service members and veterans being pressured into taking mortgages they don’t need, a move that officials say will lower consumer costs and could lead to financial penalties for lenders.

The actions, which were announced Thursday, stem from a probe by Ginnie Mae, a government-owned corporation that guarantees payment on $2 trillion-worth of mortgage-backed securities. Its bonds include loans made through the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as other federal programs meant for low-wealth or rural borrowers.

In September, Ginnie said it found that lenders had been hounding veterans into refinancing loans over and over, a practice that can drive up a homeowners’ debt while generating profit for the lender. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, and other lawmakers called on Ginnie to find a way to stop the practice, which is known as churning.

Ginnie’s changes, meant to address those concerns, could have a big impact on fast-growing mortgage firms that have made a specialty in lending to vets. Those lenders include Freedom Mortgage Co. and NewDay USA, which issue the vast majority of the loans with rates that are more than a percentage point and a half above the rest of the market, according to Ginnie Mae data.

According to public records, Freedom and NewDay refinanced the home of one borrower seven times in two years between 2014 and 2016. Four of those refinances were performed by Freedom. NewDay followed with two more, and the final refinance came from a different lender.

NewDay specializes in cash-out refinances for veterans who want to take out money for purposes like consolidating debt. Its rates on most of those loans are above those of other lenders.

Joseph Murin, NewDay’s chairman emeritus, said Wednesday that the firm’s rates are higher because they’re willing to take on more risk than others, such as through lending to borrowers with lower credit scores and letting them take out more cash. Murin said that though NewDay’s loans tend to refinance quickly, that’s because other lenders swoop in and pick off those borrowers, rather than NewDay refinancing them itself. He added that the company doesn’t charge veterans fees on simple refinances.

Freedom Chief Executive Officer Stanley Middleman acknowledged that his company refinances some borrowers quickly but said the company doesn’t charge fees to those borrowers and only uses the practice because its afraid other lenders will perform the refinance instead.

“We are really aligned with wanting the investor to be happy and really aligned with wanting the customer to be happy, just not at our expense,“ Middleman said. “If we’re vulnerable, we’re going to have to defend ourselves.“

Thursday’s changes will restrict how often a lender is allowed to put a mortgage to a particular borrower in a Ginnie-backed bond. Last year, Ginnie imposed a six-month moratorium, but allowed exceptions for certain kinds of mortgages. Starting in April, there won’t be any exceptions, Ginnie said.

The agency said it will also start to more closely track how quickly certain lenders refinance borrowers and what rates they charge. If a lender’s mortgages refinance extremely quickly or if they charge rates that are more than 1.5 percentage points above the market, they may face penalties.

The bonds the lenders issue would carry a designation flagging to investors that they are more prone to rapid refinances. That scarlet letter would likely hurt the price the lender could get for the bonds, lowering their profits and making it harder for them to offer competitive rates.

“It makes me sick that predatory lending behavior is back and particularly sick that it’s focused on veterans,“ Bright said.

GE ranks first in 2017 downsizing after 12,000 more job cuts

The Free Press WV

General Electric already has the distinction of being the worst performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average this year. Now it’s taken the lead among U.S. companies in announcing the most job cuts.

The beleaguered manufacturer has eliminated a total of 19,242 jobs in 2017, including Thursday’s news that it would reduce its power-business workforce by 12,000. The reduction pushed GE past General Motors, which has announced a series of cuts throughout the year amid slow auto demand and growing inventories.

Macy’s occupies the third spot on the list. The retailer kicked 2017 off by slashing 10,000 jobs and closing 68 stores after an underwhelming holiday shopping season.

Macy’s hasn’t been the only retailer to downsize in 2017. The consumer cyclical sector, which includes retail, charted the biggest cuts overall of any industry as stores grapple with the growth of e-commerce and the so-called retail apocalypse.

As job losses pile up at GE and GM, many of those cuts are taking place overseas. Friday’s U.S. job report is projected to show an increase in payrolls, while the unemployment rate continues to hold at an almost 17-year low of 4.1 percent.

Though President Donald Trump campaigned on bringing jobs back to the U.S., growth remains on pace with the final year of his predecessor’s administration.

Energy companies, which claimed the top spot for job losses in 2016, now rank seventh among all sectors this year.

Coal CEO: Senate Tax Plan Drives Whole Sector into Nonexistence

The Free Press WV

A massive overhaul of the United States tax system is in the works.

The Senate passed a tax bill last Saturday morning marking a big win for the GOP, but some Republican backers are not as happy with the outcome. 

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray said the Senate tax plan would raise his tax bill by $60 million. 

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Murray said:

“What the Senate did, in their befuddled mess, is drove me out of business and then bragged about the fact that they got some tax reform passed. This is not job creation. This is not stimulating income. This is driving a whole sector of our community into nonexistence.“

Murray is a donor to Republicans, including President Donald Trump, who talked about boosting coal-mining jobs while campaigning in 2016.

Fat squirrel steals pricey goods left out for delivery folks

The Free Press WV

An obese squirrel was caught on video stealing gourmet chocolate and lip balm that a family leaves outside as a holiday treat for delivery people.

Michele Boudreaux, of Maplewood, New Jersey, said on her blog she provides candy, snacks, tissues, hand warmers and other goodies on her doorstep every year. She never had any issues before, but this year, her basket was raided within hours of being set outside her home.

The thief seemed to be targeting the priciest stuff, including about 25 squares of Ghirardelli chocolate, she said.

The family set up a surveillance camera to see what was going on and spotted the overweight varmint standing on a step stool, digging through the stash Tuesday.

“I mean, this squirrel is so obese — a jolly ol’ chap — he must be prepping for a decade of winters,” Boudreaux wrote.

Her husband tried to chase it to see where it was hoarding all the treats, but it made a clean getaway.

Boudreaux said she stumbled upon the thieving rodent in the act Wednesday, and recorded it taking more chocolate and a Carmex lip balm.

They’ve devised the perfect solution to the problem.

“We now have our chocolate in a jar that requires opposable thumbs,” she wrote.

The shenanigans “brought my family so much joy,” she told the AP Thursday.

Squirrels are seemingly trying to ruin the holiday spirit all over New Jersey this season. Officials in the town of Sea Girt were puzzled last week when wires to the town’s Christmas tree and display were found torn. Workers repaired the damage so the tree could be lit on Friday.

Police kept watch over the display and on Saturday posted a photo on Facebook of the culprit — a squirrel.

Police said the naughty rodent was “charged with criminal mischief and released on bail.”

10 Safest, Least Safe Cities in America

The Free Press WV

When seeking a place to settle down, safety is usually at the top of home seekers’ priority list. WalletHub scoured more than 180 cities nationwide, looking at natural-disaster risks, financial perils, and the safety of homes and communities in general. The site used nearly three dozen key safety indicators in its analysis, from different types of violent crime per capita and the risk of being slammed by an earthquake, hurricane, or other Mother Nature-driven calamity, to economic influences such as poverty rate and identity theft complaints. If you’re scoping out regions in general, the Northeast seems to be a literally safe bet, with half of the top 10 cities located there. The safest of all: Nashua, NH. Rounding out the winners:

Safest U.S. cities (total safety score, out of 100):

  1. Nashua, NH; 87.4
  2. South Burlington, Vt.; 87.3
  3. Warwick, RI; 87.2
  4. Columbia, Md.; 86.5
  5. Gilbert, Ariz.; 85.3
  6. Fargo, ND; 85.3
  7. Lewiston, Maine; 84.4
  8. Plano, Texas; 84.1
  9. Portland, Maine; 84.0
  10. Brownsville, Texas; 83.9

Least safe U.S. cities (total safety score, out of 100):

  1. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; 43.2
  2. St. Louis; 48.9
  3. San Bernardino, Calif.; 50.6
  4. Oklahoma City; 55.1
  5. Detroit; 56.3
  6. Little Rock, Ark.; 57.2
  7. Orlando, Fla.; 57.2
  8. Chattanooga, Tenn.; 58.8
  9. Baton Rouge, La.; 60.2
  10. Jackson, Miss.; 60.8

Find where the city nearest to you ranks.

FBI director counters Trump’s attacks on his agency

The Free Press WV

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday countered strident attacks on his agency by President Donald Trump, saying, “There is no finer institution than the FBI.”

Wray testified before the House Judiciary Committee as Democrats and Republicans clashed over the significance of Trump’s attacks on the agency. In a storm of tweets last weekend, Trump called the nation’s top law enforcement agency a biased institution whose reputation is “in Tatters — worst in History!” and urged Wray to “clean house.”

Democrats pushed Wray to respond forcefully, while Republicans echoed Trump in suggesting they worry about political bias in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of possible Trump campaign ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Like Trump, they seized on revelations that an FBI agent was removed from Mueller’s team because of anti-Trump texts.

“There is no shortage of opinions out there, but what I can tell you is that the FBI that I see is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe,” Wray said of the agency he has led for just four months. “The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of brave men and women working as hard as they can to keep people they will never know safe from harm.”

Wray conceded that agents do make mistakes and said there are processes in place to hold them accountable.

His defense of the FBI came after the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said he was concerned by reports about Peter Strzok, a veteran counterintelligence agent involved in the Clinton investigation, being removed from Mueller’s team last summer following the discovery of text messages seen as potentially anti-Trump.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for FBI employees to permit their own political predilections to contaminate any investigation,” Goodlatte said. “Even the appearance of impropriety will devastate the FBI’s reputation.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, top Democrat on the House Judiciary panel, predicted Trump’s attacks on the FBI will only grow louder as Mueller continues investigating. “Your responsibility is not only to defend the bureau but to push back against the president when he is so clearly wrong, both on the facts and as a matter of principle,” Nadler told Wray.

Wray’s tenure as the new FBI chief would be difficult enough even without the intense scrutiny of the Russia investigation. Since he was sworn in on Aug. 2, the U.S. has experienced two of the deadliest shootings in its modern history and an attack seen as terrorism in Manhattan.

Trump’s weekend tweets created a fresh dilemma for Wray. With his bosses, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Sessions’ deputy, Rod Rosenstein, staying publicly silent, it fell to Wray to defend the agency. But FBI directors traditionally have been low-key and stoic — with Wray’s predecessor, James Comey, a notable exception.

And Trump’s firing of Comey while he led the Russia probe shows what can happen to a director who antagonizes the president.

Wray repeatedly deflected questions about the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, saying the entire matter was under review by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

Republicans repeatedly pressed him on reports that Strzok tweaked the language of the FBI’s finding from “grossly negligent” — the standard laid out in the relevant statute — to “extremely careless,” which was the language that Comey ultimately used in discussing the Clinton case with the public.

Ford moving electric SUV production from Michigan to Mexico

The Free Press WV

Ford is changing gears again in Mexico, shifting planned production of a small electric-powered sport utility vehicle to a plant south of the border instead of a Michigan factory.

Sending the electric vehicle to Mexico, where labor costs are lower, will help the business case for the costly model. It also risks raising the ire of President Donald Trump, who had been sharply critical of an earlier plan by Ford to build a small car factory in Mexico that the company ultimately canceled.

“They have to do what’s best financially and this electric vehicle is not going to be huge” in terms of sales volume, said Michelle Krebs, an analyst with car-shopping website Autotrader. “It’s not like they’re not putting money into the U.S.“

Moving production of the as-yet-unnamed electric SUV to Mexico will allow the carmaker to boost planned output of self-driving vehicles at its factory in Flat Rock, Michigan. The Wall Street Journal reported the automaker’s change of plans earlier.

Ford is boosting its investment by $200 million and adding 150 more jobs to the Michigan plant as part of the shift, Mark Truby, the company’s communications chief, said in an email. The driverless car is to debut in 2021.

The SUV to be built in Mexico starting in 2020 will go 300 miles on a single charge and is the centerpiece of a planned $4.5 billion overhaul of Ford’s lineup to add 13 electric or hybrid models, including a gas-electric F-150. Ford has been viewed by Wall Street as playing catch-up to rivals such as Tesla and General Motors, which already sells the battery-powered Chevy Bolt and plans to introduce robot taxis in 2019.

Ford’s chief executive officer, Jim Hackett, has been accelerating the automaker’s moves in electric and autonomous cars, while announcing $14 billion in cost cuts to improve the what he calls the company’s “fitness.“ After replacing Mark Fields as CEO in May, one of Hackett’s first moves was to shift a plan to make the Focus small car in Mexico to one of the automaker’s plants in China.

Trump did not tweet his displeasure this summer with Hackett’s plan to build small cars in China to be exported to the U.S., nor has he blasted the automaker after news broke Wednesday of the electric SUV’s shift to Mexico.

“Automakers have been out of the line of fire of late with so many other issues brewing in D.C.,“ Krebs said, adding that the impact of the president’s planned changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement represents an “unknown” for Ford as it shifts the electric SUV to Mexico.

The self-driving car Ford will build in Michigan will be a commercial vehicle specifically designed for ride-hailing and delivery services, Jim Farley, executive vice president of global markets, wrote in a Medium post Wednesday. The automaker will begin testing the car in an unnamed city next year.

“Next year will be an important time for us as we begin to test both our self-driving technology and business model in a variety of pilot programs in the first city in which we plan to operate an autonomous vehicle business,“ Farley wrote. Ford’s autonomous business will “serve leading companies, such as Lyft, in the movement of people and goods.“

3 of Year’s Most Popular Tweets Belong to Obama

The Free Press WV

Twitter on Tuesday released its list of the 10 most retweeted tweets of 2017, and President Trump may not be pleased. The regular tweeter did not make the cut even once, while predecessor Barack Obama ended up with three in the top 10, notes Politico. The most retweeted tweet of all, however, belonged not to a politician but to a teenager trying to score some Chicken McNuggets.

  1. Carter Wilkerson: “HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS” (3.6 million retweets)
  2. Barack Obama: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…“ (1.7 million)
  3. Penn State Intrafraternity Council: “With the current devastation in Houston, we are pledging $0.15 for every RT this gets! Please forward this along to help out those in need!“ (1.2 million)
  4. Ariana Grande: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.“ (1.1 million)
  5. Barack Obama: “Thank you for everything. My last ask is the same as my first. I’m asking you to believe—not in my ability to create change, but in yours.“ (872,000)
  6. Linkin Park: An image of Chester Bennington has been retweeted 787,000 times.
  7. LeBron James: “U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!“ (661,000)
  8. Barack Obama: “It’s been the honor of my life to serve you. You made me a better leader and a better man.“ (631,000)
  9. Sam Martin (Detroit Lions punter): “Leo (a dog) and I are donating 6 lbs of dog food to Houston for every retweet this gets!!!! RT RT RT RT!!“ (623,000)
  10. Seth Joseph: “suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255 ... 1 person ends their life every 40 seconds ... will u take the time to retweet this & possibly save one of them?“ (604,000)
See USA Today for more details and more odds and ends about popular tweets from the year.

Flu Season Kicks Off Early— and It May Be a Nasty One

The Free Press WV

If you haven’t gone for a flu shot yet, you may want to hurry—the season of sickness is already upon us. The CDC’s weekly flu tracker notes a wider geographic spread of the illness across the US compared with this time of year in years past. Popular Science also reports, based on baseline numbers, flu season kicked off during Thanksgiving week, a few weeks ahead of the past two flu seasons. Per Today, the CDC’s numbers also indicate four states are reporting widespread influenza activity (no states reported such in 2016 at this time). And news from Australia, which is hit with its flu season months before ours (serving as a gauge of sorts for what we may expect), isn’t promising, with a record number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. As it can take weeks for the flu shot to kick in, this all underscores the importance of people getting their shots ASAP, experts say.

Adding to the unpredictability of how we’ll fare with the flu is that vaccines “are usually only about 40% to 60% effective in the best of years,“ Martin Hirsch, EIC of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, tells USA Today. That’s what makes the Australia news worrisome, as the main flu strain there was H3N2, the vaccine there was only about 10% effective against that strain, and the H3N2 portion of that vaccine is the same one we’ll use. But experts say it’s still impossible to tell where we’ll end up: The US may be mainly hit by strains other than H3N2, for example. Either way, Hirsch and others still recommend getting the shot, as it could still mitigate symptoms and keep you out of the hospital if you do get the flu. The vaccine could also offer protection against other strains, and, thanks to herd immunity, could help protect more vulnerable people like the elderly.

Patagonia: ‘The President Stole Your Land’

The Free Press WV

“The President Stole Your Land,“ outdoor apparel firm Patagonia declared in a message on its website Monday, hours after President Trump confirmed the shrinking of two national monuments in Utah by around 2 million acres. Patagonia says it plans to sue the Trump administration to halt what it says is an “illegal move” that will cause the “largest elimination of protected land in American history,“ Fortune reports. Patagonia is joining environmental and Native American groups challenging Trump’s shrinking of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, which he called the result of “overreach” by the Obama and Clinton administrations. The two massive monuments will be downsized into five smaller ones, with the protected Bears Ears land shrunk by 85%.

“Americans have overwhelmingly spoken out against the Trump administration’s unprecedented attempt to shut down our national monuments,“ Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said in a statement to Ad Age. “We’ve fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we’ll continue that fight in the courts.“ Legal challenges to the move will focus on whether the president has the right to reverse his predecessors’ creations under the Antiquities Act. Hours after Trump signed the proclamations in Salt Lake City, the Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain, Hopi, Zuni, and Pueblo tribes filed what they said was a historic federal lawsuit against Trump’s “slap in the face,“ KUTV reports.

Hello, South Burlington, Vermont

The Free Press WV

The most “sinful” city in the US is ... yup, Vegas. Though that top result isn’t too surprising, a ranking by WalletHub is still pretty entertaining to read. Using metrics that run the gamut from casinos, to massage parlors, to plastic surgeries (vanity is a sin, remember), and even to the number of active Tinder users, the site has a comprehensive ranking on the best and least sinful cities out of more than 180 studied. South Burlington, Vermont, ends up as the most virtuous. Here are the worst, along with the overall “vice index”:

  1. Las Vegas, 59.53
  2. Orlando, Florida, 53.11
  3. Miami, 52.52
  4. St. Louis, Missouri, 52.46
  5. North Las Vegas, 50.58
  6. Henderson, Nevada, 50.27
  7. Detroit, 50.09
  8. Baton Rouge, 50.01
  9. Tampa, Florida, 49.70
  10. New Orleans, 49.64

The least sinful cities:

  1. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 31.78
  2. Aurora, Illinois, 31.64
  3. San Jose, California, 31.44
  4. Santa Rosa, California, 31.35
  5. Plano, Texas, 31.24
  6. Port St. Lucie, Florida, 31.21
  7. West Valley City, Utah, 31.05
  8. Brownsville, Texas, 30.62
  9. Pearl City, Hawaii, 29.77
  10. South Burlington, Vermont, 28.97

Click for the full rankings and the detailed methodology.

Southern California Wildfire Growing ‘Exponentially’

The Free Press WV

Ferocious winds in Southern California whipped up an explosive wildfire that forced thousands of homes to evacuate and could soon threaten a city of more than 100,000, authorities say. The blaze broke out Monday and grew wildly to more than 15 square miles in the hours that followed, consuming vegetation that hasn’t burned in decades, Ventura County Fire Sgt. Eric Buschow says. The winds are pushing it toward Santa Paula, a city of some 30,000 people about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, the AP reports. Most of the evacuated homes are in that city. Authorities say that the city of Ventura, which is 12 miles southwest and has 106,000 residents, is likely to feel the effects soon.

“The fire growth is just absolutely exponential,“ Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen says. “All that firefighters can do when we have winds like this is get out ahead, evacuate people, and protect structures.“ One person was killed in a fire-related car crash and at least two structures have burned so far, officials say. Winds exceeding 40mph and gusts over 60mph are expected to continue, the National Weather Service says. Firefighters and aircraft from neighboring Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties poured in to help, though darkness and winds forced the grounding of planes late Monday night. The Los Angeles Times reports that 260,000 people in the area were without power early Tuesday.

Trump to scale back 2 national monuments in trip to Utah

The Free Press WV

Trump is traveling to Salt Lake City on Monday to outline his intention to shrink the Bears Ears and the Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments spanning millions of acres in Utah. The two national monuments were among 27 that Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review earlier this year.

Utah’s Republican leaders, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, pressed Trump to launch the review, saying the monuments declared by Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton locked up too much federal land.

Trump’s plans to curtail the strict protections on the sites have angered tribes and environmentalist groups who have vowed to sue to preserve the monuments.

In December, shortly before leaving office, Obama irritated Utah Republicans by creating the Bears Ears National Monument on 1.35 million acres of land sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings.

Trump signed an executive order in April directing Zinke to conduct a review of the protections. Trump is able to upend the protections under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives the president broad authority to declare federal lands as monuments and restrict their use.

The president said in April his order would end “another egregious abuse of federal power” and “give that power back to the states and to the people where it belongs.”

Trump said at the time that he had spoken to state and local leaders “who are gravely concerned about this massive federal land grab. And it’s gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we’re going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place. This should never have happened.”

The move marks the first time in a half century that a president has attempted to undo these types of land protections. And it could be the first of many changes to come.

Zinke also has recommended that Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou monuments be reduced in size, although details remain unclear. The former Montana congressman’s plan would allow logging at a newly designated monument in Maine and more grazing, hunting and fishing at two sites in New Mexico.

Democrats and environmentalists have opposed the changes, accusing Trump and Zinke of engaging in a secretive process aimed at helping industry groups that have donated to Republican campaigns.

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