When President Donald Trump today announced plans to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument and nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, he said it was because he wants to “take back the land.” He wants to “take back” land that we already own. This is the largest elimination of public lands in US history. Bears Ears was cut by 85% (from 1.3 million acres to just over 200,000) and Grand Staircase-Escalante was cut by 50% (1.9 million acres to about 1 million). More than 2 million acres of land that belonged to the American people will be given to mining, drilling, and logging companies in the name of profit.
Here are a few reasons this should upset you.
- The public overwhelmingly wanted to keep the protections in place. Nearly 3 million people provided public comments in support of the monuments and a recent poll showed 99% of locals also support public land protection. We’ve known this for a long time, but President Trump and Secretary Zinke have no regard for public opinion and will govern solely on self interests and personal financial gain.
- This move could set a precedent in regard to the Antiquities Act, which was created to protect land with historic or scientific significance. Bears Ears alone has over 100,000 items of said significance, including burial sites, ancient dwellings, and geological formations found only in this part of Utah among others. This move allows Trump to decide which areas are significant by his definition, not of the Native people who have occupied this land for thousands of years. If he can say what is or isn’t significant here, what’s to stop him from saying Half Dome isn’t significant, Everglades National Park is just a scientifically insignificant swamp, or Yellowstone is like any other place in Wyoming and should not be protected?
- Trump did not have the legal authority to open up either of these monuments, showing he has no disregard for the law of the land. This is partially related to the Antiquities Act. Courts will decide whether his move was legal or not in the coming months, as many organizations have promised suit.
- Just days prior, Trump and his GOP pushed through a tax plan that will negatively affect the United States for decades. One item that was included in said tax plan was a line that opened up Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. That’s right, he sold public land to an oil company under the guise of tax legislation. This shows us that Trump and his GOP will stop at nothing to profit at the expense of their constituents.
Both national monuments, like all national parks, national forests, state forests, national recreational areas, state parks, and national wildlife refuges belong to the American people. All 300 million of us. This is land that was set aside for the benefit of all Americans and to be protected for generations to come.
While this unethical political act is angering to say the least, we’re using it as a source of inspiration. As we continue to support Save the Boundary Waters (pictured above) with a renewed vigor, we urge you to enter the fight to preserve public lands. It doesn’t need to be Bears Ears or the BWCA, as long as it is a public natural place that near and dear to you. With our government’s disregard for public opinion, objects and land of historical or scientific significance, and beliefs of our Native people in the name of profit, there’s nothing stopping them from taking land that you cherish. Join us in the fight to protect public lands.
(This is a post I wrote for Borealis Wool Co. and can be found on borealiswoolco.com)