Trump and his supporters have been adamant about their support of Confederate monuments and statues in the past. That’s why it was such a surprise when Trump decided to massively downsize the Bears Ears National Monument.
Where is Bears Ears National Monument?
Bears Ears National Monument is in Utah, and until recently, it was about 1.3 million acres.
Why is it important?
Bears Ears National Monument is laden with important Native American cultural sites and artefacts; activists and scientists alike have called it the most significant unprotected archaeological site in the United States, listing over 100,000 locations of importance. Bears Ears is a cornucopia of indigenous history, from its Native American burial grounds, to the incredible collections of petroglyphs and pictographs, to centuries-old housing that still stand today.
Due to this history, many Native Americans also feel a deep emotional connection to the land and consider it to be a part of them.
“I cry every time I come to that place,” said Kenneth Maryboy, a Navajo with deep family ties here.
Bears Ears National Monument also contains beautiful natural landscapes; the Nature Conservancy references “vast sandstone canyons, towering buttes, [and] juniper forests” as some of the area’s many wonders. Making it a national monument protected much of the indigenous wildlife in the region.
Why does it need to be protected?
Bears Ears has continually suffered from vandalism, looting, and grave-robbing. Since 2011, there have been more than 50 destructive incidents (2016 article), including removal of petroglyphs using a rock saw and chisel; names being scratched into historical cave art; destruction of materials from 2,000-year-old to 3,000-year-old sites. In fact, until Obama designated the land as a national monument, there were only four federal rangers assigned to the total of over 1 million acres.
The other issue facing the area is irresponsible development. Bears Ears is filled with natural resources which many companies are eager to get their hands on. This is the main reason that Trump has decided to reduce the protection of the region. Mineral leeching, mining, and oil and gas drilling are some of the major threats to Bears Ears.
National Monument status protected the land from being exploited.
The Bears Ears Coalition stated, “Proper management of Bears Ears’ native plants and wildlife is paramount to Native American people. Tribal people depend on the Bears Ears region as both their medicine cabinet and their pantry – for food, shelter, and healing, as well as for their spiritual sustenance.”
What did Trump do?
In 2016, Obama designated a little over 1.3 million acres as a national monument. However, Trump has cut this back to barely 200,000 acres. 85% of the protected land has been removed. This has also divided Bears Ears into two, unconnected parts.
How are people fighting back?
Lawyers from the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Indian Tribe, and Ute Mountain Ute have filed a suit against Trump’s actions. In addition to this, many environmental groups, such as the Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, and Patagonia are also suing the administration.
Featured Image Credit: NBC News