President Donald Trump is planning to drastically scale two national monuments in Utah. According to the Washington Post, Bears Ears national park, which is currently 1.35 million acres, could be shrunk by 85 percent, and the 1.9 million acres of Grand Staircase-Escalante national park will also be reduced by 85 percent. Trump will be announcing the proposal when he visits Salt Lake City today (Monday, December 4, 2017).
This announcement arrives after Trump requested that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke back in April review any national monument that is larger than 100,000 acres. Three months later, Zinke submitted a report with recommendations for reducing or eliminating 27 monuments, including Gold Butte in Nevada and Vermillion Cliffs in Arizona.
The push to shrink national monuments comes from the Trump administration’s intent to open up federally protected land to oil, gas, and mining activities, which was ordained to be limited by the Obama administration during the dying months of Barack Obama’s presidency:
“Conservationists predict Trump intends to shrink some existing monuments to open up lands for new mining and drilling operations, a potential move that Friends of the Earth’s Ben Schreiber described as a “blatant handouts to the oil and gas industry.” Any such land would still be federally managed, but losing monument status would strip it of national park-like protections, which forbid new leases for grazing, oil, gas, and mining.”
The procedures that will likely be announced by Trump will serve as a great disappointment for environmentalists who want to protect and preserve national parks. The Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is also the home to thousands of Native American cultural, archaeological, and sacred sites. Back in November of 2017, representatives of the five Native tribes in the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition announced their intention to sue the Trump administration once the announcement is made.
“The tribes view this as an affront to themselves and their own self-determination,” Natalie Landreth, senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund told the Salt Lake Tribune.
Conservationists have also thrown their weight behind Native tribes. Thousands of conservationists, Native American tribe members, and environmentalists stood in solidarity and rallied outside Utah’s Capitol in Salt Lake City on Saturday, protesting President Trump’s expected plan to shrink two national monuments in one of America’s most scenic states. The Utah Highway Patrol estimated the crowd to be about 5,000 people.
“This illegal action will cement Trump’s legacy as one of the worst presidents in modern history,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Trump has no clue how much people love these sacred and irreplaceable landscapes, but he’s about to find out.”
Photo: Indian Creek in Bears Ears National Monument (Wikimedia Commons)