Some commenters are submitting photos of Bears Ears and other monuments. As photographer Jack Brauer put it, "You simply cannot find canyons and native archeology like this anywhere else in the country or the world."
© Jack Brauer.
Americans only have until May 26 to submit comments concerning President Trump's infamous "review" of Bears Ears National Monument (the deadline for the other monuments is July 10). This is an accelerated process designed to suppress the voices of people who want to keep the protections established by President Obama. According to some media reports, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has already decided he will recommend revoking Bears Ears' monument status, suggesting the Trump administration made up its mind a long time ago and these efforts to gauge public opinion are an exercise in make-believe democracy.
Take action: Tell Secretary Zinke you #StandWithBearsEars
But if our anecdotal survey of comments on the regulations.gov portal is any indication, the American people are taking this seriously—and they oppose Trump's shortsighted attacks on our public lands. In the words of one commenter, "the "review" of national monuments is rigged [and] … President Trump doesn't understand what a national monument is."
Comments from Utahns alone make up a fierce rejoinder to any claim that locals don't like the monument as much as Americans at-large.
We must get so loud that it's impossible for Secretary Zinke, President Trump or anyone else to claim that "the people" want monuments to be de-designated.
"Do not be short sighted and do not give in to the old guard," said one local defender of Bears Ears' status. Another longtime resident lamented that "if the protections for many of these monuments are revoked, and full-scale extracting takes place, we will never get back the wonderful nature of these lands."
Credit: Mason Cummings (TWS).
A very limited sampling of excerpts from comments submitted by self-identified Utahns shows many similar sentiments (emphasis added).
"A 40 year resident of Moab, Utah":
The Bears Ears are in my back yard and over the last 40 years I have watched the irreplaceable cultural resources being looted, illegal atv [all-terrain vehicle] trails being created and rock art being defaced. […] Please do not allow partisan politics to over ride [sic] protecting these unique lands and their scientific and cultural resources.
As a Utahn (for my entire adult life), I want our monuments to remain protected as national monuments. There is no better place to gain perspective than when standing in the center of the vastness of Utah's canyon country (I strongly recommend this experience to anyone stuck in an office in D.C., trying to decide the fate of OUR public lands.)
A Utahn whose ancestors "came here only 387 years ago"
I support the people who were living here before and their traditional and sacred areas. The Bears Ears area is significant for spiritual and archaeological reasons; it will be much better protected by Federal agencies than state agencies. Our (Utah) federal elected officials have shown their disdain for the local Native tribal leaders by ignoring these leaders' requests to be part of the PLI conversation […] These local officials and some others do not think of the world as a place to be protected, but a place to be exploited. Do not leave these foxes in charge of the hen house that is Bears' Ears National Monument. Keep the designation that was agreed between the sovereign Indian nations and the U S government in 2016.
A Utahn who "supports the preservation of the monuments in Utah"
Bears Ears preservation has been requested by Native Americans, and I hope that you can honor their unique perspective particularly in light of the many times we have not protected and adequately respected their sacred lands in the past.
As a Utahn, I value the economic benefits that our protected federal lands give us. I value the ability to enjoy these lands. […] Giving them to states will result in a dramatic reduction of protection and oversight that is critical for managing these incredible lands. In Utah specifically, and with Bears Ears specifically, Native American groups support the designation of it as a protected National Monument. Please respect their wishes.
A Utahn who "cherish[es] our public lands":
Our [Members of Congress] do not represent the majority of us Utahns. They want to make these lands available for digging up and drilling and uncontrolled cattle ranching. Please let the Bears Ears Monument and the Grand staircase Monument remain as designated[.]
Alan D. Eastman, a Utahn who "worked for a major oil company for 30 years":
[T]he locals had lots of opportunity to direct formation of the monument ...The discussion is over - it's time to let Bears Ears alone.
And on and on.
Naturally, commenters from around the country have also rallied around the cause. A self-described Osage woman pointed out that "It would be religious desecration to allow for profit gains from exploiting resources in the area" that contain ancient burial grounds and other important tribal site.
Another commenter echoed concern about damage to archaeological sites, and added an important note on ecological threats: "As an environmental scientist, I know how important it is to carefully respect fragile desert biomes in their diversity, maintaining them in as original [a] state as possible to keep them intact."
Credit: Mason Cummings (TWS).
Criticism of the review process and Zinke's selective trip to Utah have been abundant, too. "These lands are loved and revered by many more Utahans than you were allowed to see," one local commented. "We were at the State Capital and the BLM building but you were not allowed to see the outpouring of support for these wonderful National Monuments." Another perhaps charitably speculated on the reasoning behind the "carefully scripted tour": "because you already knew how much support is out there for national monuments and in particular for our newest monument, Bears Ears."
Many people kept it simple: "Bear Ears National Monument is a place I hold dear to my heart...[I hope to] bring my future children there to enjoy the natural and preserved beauty of that place."
We can't let Trump admin gloss over our voices
More than 60,000 public comments have been submitted through the regulations.gov monuments portal, but we know that isn't enough to stop Trump in his tracks. Even if every person in America weighed in, special interests would still have the president's ear, and the administration would still have its sights set on reducing protection for Bears Ears and other monuments.
But here is what we can—and must—do: get so loud that it's impossible for Secretary Zinke, President Trump or anyone else to claim that "the people" want monuments to be de-designated.
If we accomplish this, it will make it much harder for Trump to take the next steps that would be required to reverse or reduce monuments (namely, either executive action or legislation passed through Congress).
When Secretary Zinke left Utah, tribal leaders and other defenders of public lands said their voices had not been heard. We need to make it so we're too loud to ignore. It's time to step up and STAND WITH BEARS EARS.
Take action: Defend monuments and tell Secretary Zinke you #StandWithBearsEars