Trump Drastically Reduces Two National Monuments

Puebloan granary in the Bears Ears National Monument
Puebloan granary in the Bears Ears National Monument
(Bureau of Land Management)

We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune. — Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt's Antiquities Act was meant to give federal protections to historical, natural and cultural treasures forever.

President Trump announced Monday that he is greatly diminishing the size of two national monuments in Utah---the largest reduction of public lands protection in U.S. history. 

Trump’s decision to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments by more than 1.1 million acres and more than 800,000 acres, respectively, met with support from conservative lawmakers along with renewed protests from conservationists, tribal members, and others. The presidential proclamations downsize Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by 50 percent.

Bears Ears National Monument, a vast Southwestern destination featuring red rock canyons and iconic "Bears Ears" buttes, contains sacred Native American land, including 100,000 archeologically significant sites.

After losing its designation, the unprotected land remains under federal control, and could be opened up for industrial uses, from mining to drilling, along with motorized recreational vehicles. (Besides being a draw for tourism and recreation, National Monument status also allows some "grandfathered in" uses by locals such as cattle grazing.) 

Following an executive order earlier this year, Secretary Ryan Zinke at the Department of the Interior subjected 27 national monuments to a review that has been wildly unpopular with Americans. In all, 99.2 percent of the more than 2.8 million public comments submitted about Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and other monument lands oppose the executive order that placed them under scrutiny and subject to change.

Legal challenges lay ahead. For one, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in a statement: “The decision to reduce the size of the Monument is being made with no tribal consultation. The Navajo Nation will defend Bears Ears. The reduction in the size of the Monument leaves us no choice but to litigate this decision.”

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