Trump to Gut Bears Ears by 85%, Grand Staircase-Escalante by 50% on Monday
Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Harry Hayashi / ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
President Donald Trump is expected to order a significant downsizing of two national monuments in Utah next week, a move environmentalists have condemned as the "largest rollback of federal land protections ever."
According to leaked documents obtained by the Associated Press, the president plans to shrink Bears Ears National Monument by nearly 85 percent and reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by almost half.
The plan would gut the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears to only 201,397 acres and the 1.87 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante to just 997,490 acres. This is a collective loss of more than two million acres of formerly protected land.
Trump, who will travel to Utah on Monday to formerly announce the decision, is making the move after Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke made recommendations to his boss to sharply downsize the two monuments.
Fossil fuel-linked advocates have long targeted the areas for oil, gas and coal resources within and around the monuments' boundaries. According to Zinke's leaked memo from his nationwide monuments review over the summer, Grand Staircase-Escalante sits atop "several billion tons" of coal. Coal and oil reserves also surround Bears Ears.
Environmental groups and tribal leaders have responded to the Associated Press' report with sharp condemnation. The Wilderness Society and the Native American Rights Fund have released maps of the proposed land reduction.
"It is no surprise that the Trump Administration is bowing to special interests, including the oil and mining companies, and these maps show how extreme his plans are for some of the most treasured and culturally significant lands in our nation," said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society.
“President Trump's attempt to splinter and shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante would be the largest rollback of federal land protections ever," said Mark Salvo, vice president of Landscape Conservation at Defenders of Wildlife.
Bears Ears in particular features thousands of Native American archaeological and cultural artifacts.
"For us, Bears Ears is a homeland. It always has been and still is," the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition said. "The radical idea of breaking up Bears Ears National Monument is a slap in the face to the members of our Tribes and an affront to Indian people all across the country. Any attempt to eliminate or reduce the boundaries of this Monument would be wrong on every count. Such action would be illegal, beyond the reach of presidential authority."
Natalie Landreth, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, called Trump's action unprecedented and illegal and has already drafted a legal challenge to the move.
"He will not be able to bask in one day of applause at the Salt Lake City airport" before being sued, she told the AP.
Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah has said that the monuments in his state locked up too much land and asked Trump to shrink or rescind them.
“I believe the outcome he is planning to announce strikes an excellent balance where everyone wins," Hatch said Thursday.