Environews: Trump puts national monuments under attack

By Amy Brunvand

Will Bears Ears disappear into the clouds — a national monument only briefly, now to be diminished or denied by short-sighted political leaders? —Stephen Trimble

In a colonial enterprise, profitability is the measure by which all endeavors and even the people and the land itself are valued. In Dakota culture, it was our relationships that were the focus and considered the source of wealth, life and ultimately, true humanity. – Jacqueline Keeler in “Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears.”

Photo Credit: Stephen Trimble (stephentrimble.net)

On April 26, President Trump signed Executive Order 13792 calling for a “review” of all national monuments that have been designated under the Antiquities Act since 1996 with an explicit agenda of downsizing or rescinding National Monument status.

The review, which was instigated at the request of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, allowed a short 45 days to conduct a review of Bears Ears National Monument (ended on May 27); 120 days are allotted for public comment on the other 26 national monuments initially targeted for review.

In Utah, Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monuments are targeted,. Across state lines, national monuments near Utah include Vermillion Cliffs and Grand Canyon-Parashant (AZ), Craters of the Moon (ID), Canyons of the Ancients (CO), and Basin & Range and Gold Butte (NV).

In May, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was given a Potemkin tour of Bears Ears by a group largely made up of Utah politicians associated with the so-called “Transfer of Public Lands’ movement which advocates turning over federal public lands to state or county management. Although Zinke claims that he has made no decision regarding Bears Ears, Utah politicians are telling a different story.

Phil Lyman, the San Juan County commissioner convicted of trespassing and conspiracy for leading an illegal off-road vehicle ride in Recapture Canyon, has said that Zinke promised to rescind Bears Ears, while Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has been posting messages on his Facebook page boasting of his confidence that Bears Ears will be rescinded.

The 1906 Antiquities Act that allows presidents to declare national monuments was signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt in order to protect archaeological sites from looting.

Four out of Utah’s “Mighty 5” national parks began as national monuments including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Arches.
Bears Ears Comment period is already over. Public comments on other national monuments are due by July 10, 2017. Submit written comments online at www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240.

This article was originally published on June 1, 2017.