Donald Trump Bears Ears and Grand Staircase

More than 85 percent of reserved land has been taken away

The Trump administration significantly slashed the size of two Utah located national monuments, Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante. The former witnessed its boundaries shrink by 85 percent and the latter lost half of its total territory. President Donald J. Trump, by this action, reversed the protections placed by his democratic predecessors. The administration has taken this step to ensure increased development on the public lands and took away a number of restrictions so that it could occur.

The reaction was immediate. Environmental groups and Native American tribes have vowed to file lawsuits against this policy. This change has its supporters as well. Businesses and ranchers have enthusiastically welcomed this Trump move. They view National Monuments as land grabs by the Federal administration. The president is well aware of the latter. His speech at the Salt Lake City Capitol building said that a few people believe that Utah's natural resources should be under Washington based bureaucrats- and he said they are wrong. Trump said that local policies can now shape the land.

Native American tribes have called the decision an attack on their cultural heritage and self-determination. The Big Ears has over 100,000 cultural sites and artifacts, many of which are considered sacred. These sites have already been victim to grave robbing, mining, and looting. The Trump Administration did not discuss their plans with any of the tribes and have violated previous agreements the federal government had with the tribes in the area. A comparative example would be if the Italian government took over the Vatican and did not consult the Catholic Church before taking the action.

The Trump administration decision to reduce monument sizes is anticipated to start a legal battle which may alter the essence of U.S. land conservation. The inevitable ruling could put many other such monuments at risk of environmental degradation for profit. There is more than an even chance that millions of acres of hitherto pristine public land could be exposed to oil extracting activity. The long list of probable environmental destructive activities like logging and mining could also find a home in what is now a virgin, untouched landscape.

Trump took a few moments off from his speech to take pot-shots at the former Democratic presidents who have protected these monuments through the Antiquities Act. This act protects lands designated under the National Monument category by law. The status is nearly the same as national parks. A few differences between the two is that national parks are made by Congress. The National Monuments are created exclusively by presidents via Antiquities Act.

The lands which fall under Bears Ears National Monument are at present administered by five American-Indian tribes. Those five are Ute, Navajo, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Mountains, and Hopi. The commission looks after and preserves a territory which has numerous Native American ruins and has multiple cultural antiquities. Protesters came in droves to Salt Lake City to protest against the Trump action.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter