People deserve a say on what happens to Bears Ears--not just mining and energy interests

Utahns protest Trump's cuts to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Salt Lake City. 

Credit: KristineL761, flickr.

The Trump administration is rushing ahead with plans that could introduce mining to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, minimizing public input while ensuring oil, coal and other extractive interests have a seat at the table.

The Trump administration has quietly scheduled four late March public meetings on how the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments will be managed in the future.

The meetings will help determine whether these priceless monument lands are opened to mining and development. But like the rest of the process that began with President Trump’s anti-monument executive order in late 2017, the meetings--far fewer than are normally held in cases of monument planning--are designed to minimize input from the public while propping up fossil fuel and other special interests.

Last chance: Stand up and be counted in defense of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante

The Trump administration is even tilting the scales to make sure they don't encounter much resistance at these meetings. The Bureau of Land Management, which is hosting the meetings, has seemingly designed them  to generate as little attention as possible. Announced near midnight on a Friday, they will take place over a single week (weekdays only). The meetings will not solicit input from those outside of southern Utah.

 

Protesters in Salt Lake City. Credit: KristineL761, flickr.

Meanwhile, the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante rollbacks remain deeply unpopular; most Americans disagreed with the president's executive order that kicked off this whole process, and most Utahns oppose reducing protections for national monuments.

People deserve a full opportunity to weigh in on what happens to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, which belong to all Americans. The meetings and planning process currently offered by the Trump administration are not a good faith effort at providing that, and will not result in land use plans that properly prioritize the protection of natural landscape or cultural landmarks. 

Trump admin prioritizes fossil fuel interests and ignores public input

The final public meetings and broader monument planning process show once again that when it comes to public lands, the Trump administration and its allies are most interested in what oil, gas, coal and other extractive interests have to say.

Recently, The New York Times reported that oil and gas potential was a key part of Interior Secretary Zinke's decision to cut Bears Ears. Uranium and coal mining possibilities are now widely understood to have been a major influence, too.

Evidently less important than those considerations: the sizable majority of public comments that opposed the anti-monument campaign; the scientific significance of fossil discoveries now jeopardized as a result of monument cuts; and the views of Native American groups that stumped for Bears Ears' protection in the first place (and which were misrepresented or ignored by Utah politicians arguing to shrink it).

Interior Secretary Zinke spent his first couple months in office meeting with oil and gas company executives, and the year since has proven they are his true constituents rather than the American public. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante are paying the price for that fossil fuel-friendly approach.

Bears Ears National Monument (Utah). Credit: Bob Wick (BLM), flickr.

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