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Steamboat Magazine

Drastic Cuts to National Monuments

12/12/2017 03:16PM ● By Alesha Damerville

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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS-Oil, gas and logging companies appear the victors as President Donald Trump makes drastic reductions to public lands, making harnessing natural resources on the lands a possibility. Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante are two of many national monuments to be affected by this decision. This decision will be the impetus for a series of legal battles threatening American land conservation, putting the future of dozens of other monuments at risk.

Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante were protected under the Antiquities Act; Bears Ears was designated a monument in 2016 by President Barack Obama, and Grand Staircase-Escalante by President Bill Clinton in 1996. According to the Antiquities Act, presidents are granted authority to set aside landmarks and "other objects of historic or scientific interest.”

President Trump’s decision to reduce these monuments jeopardizes tens of thousands of archaeological sites. The Bureau of Land Management argues this to be false, claiming “it is generally illegal to remove or disrupt these resources without a permit issued by the federal government.”

“Bears Ears isn’t just about a few artifacts in isolated locations. Our cultures are still here and still thriving,” says Shaun Chapoose, member of the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee. “The Bears Ears region is a cultural landscape – a place to nurture our families in our traditions. The monument came about through government-to-government negotiations with the previous administration, state and local officials. The president’s proposed unilateral action pleases a few powerful Utah politicians. It’s a sad state of affairs, but we are prepared to fight for our rights, and to protect Bears Ears.”

Leaders of the five tribes that advocated for creation of the Bears Ears National Monument expressed indignation over President Trump’s move to revoke and replace Bears Ears National Monument. “President Trump’s illegal action is a shameful attack on tribes, and it will not stand,” says Carleton Bowekaty, Zuni councilman. “The president’s action is without legal authority and without respect for the Native Americans that worked for decades to protect these resources. His proposal is a strong statement to tribes across the nation that Native American values and interests are not important to the Trump administration.”

On Monday, December 4, 2017, the Navajo Nation, NARF (representing the Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe) and the Ute Indian Tribe filed a lawsuit to protect Bears Ears National Monument. The group is claiming, “President Trump’s action to revoke and replace the Bears Ears National Monument is not only an attack on the five sovereign nations with deep ties to the Bears Ears region, it is a complete violation of the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution.”

Some two million acres will be taken from the two national monuments, making this the largest retraction of federal public land in the nation's history. When Clinton preserved the Grand Staircase, plans for a coal mining project in the area were brought to a halt. Conservative lawmakers argue that for decades the federal government has overreached, starving the communities in these areas of revenue and autonomy. Members of the National Resources Defense Council argue in concern for the future, questioning the safety of beloved monuments such as the Grand Canyon.

Please visit to support efforts to defend and restore Bears Ears National Monument. 

photo from bearearscoalitioncom

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