President Trump will soon travel to Utah to announce drastic cuts to Bears Ears National Monument.
Credit: Mason Cummings (TWS).
Media are reporting that President Trump will arrive Dec. 4 to make the long-expected proclamation, declining either to visit the monuments or consider the sizeable majority of Utah residents who opposed his administration's punitive review of these and other public lands in the first place.
This sad news is months in the making. In April 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to review 27 public lands designated as national monuments under the Antiquities Act, with an eye toward shrinking boundaries and reducing protection for many of them. From the very beginning, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante were presumed to loom largest in the administration's crosshairs. Shortly after, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke opened a comment period to solicit input from the public, ostensibly to inform his recommendations about what to do with these places.
Trump once said he has “heard a lot about Bears Ears”--specifically that it is "beautiful." But apparently he hasn't heard enough not to take action that could open more of it to vandalism and development.
When he announced the executive order, Trump offered an odd parenthetical that highlighted the absurdity of the entire process, saying he has “heard a lot about Bears Ears”--specifically that it is "beautiful." Apparently, the president hasn't heard enough to reconsider a course of action that could open more of that priceless land to vandalism and development, or even limit access for sportsmen and others who cherish it.
Utahns have rejected Trump's review of monument lands
Utah politicians—notably Sen. Orrin Hatch, Gov. Gary Herbert, Rep. Rob Bishop and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz—have lobbied Trump to shrink Bears Ears' borders. Trump has heaped praise on Hatch in particular, treating his advocacy as an imprimatur delivered on behalf of the entire state (read: this guy has assured me that I'm doing what you, the people, want).
Bears Ears National Monument (Utah). Credit: Mason Cummings (TWS)
But the facts on the ground show otherwise. Polling from before President Obama's Bears Ears proclamation found that 71 percent of registered Utah voters supported monument status. Comments submitted under Trump's review show that Utahns reject changes to that status by an even greater margin: just under 91 percent opposed the review.
And while Utahns as a whole are not keen on Trump's actions, the expected announcement is an especially grave insult to the Native American tribal voices who petitioned President Obama to protect Bears Ears in the first place. Tribal interests already plan a legal challenge to Trump's decision.
All told, 99.2 percent of the more than 2.8 million public comments submitted about Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and other monument lands oppose the executive order that placed them under scrutiny. Americans don't support these actions, and they never did.
Stay tuned for more on how we will challenge this outrageous decision.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Utah). Credit: Mason Cummings (TWS).