Obama Designates Two New National Monuments, Protecting 1.65 Million Acres
President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect two large areas in the western U.S. The new Bears Ears National Monument in Utah preserves 1.35 million acres containing 100,000 significant Native American sites, while the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada sets aside 300,000 acres, also home to Indigenous archeological sites.
Protection for both of these sites has been supported by Native American tribes. Looting and desecration of artifacts has been common in these areas.
"The rock art, ancient dwellings and ceremonial sites concealed within these breathtaking landscapes help tell the story of people who have stewarded these lands for hundreds of generations," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. "Today's action builds on an extraordinary effort from tribes, local communities and members of Congress to ensure that these treasures are protected for generations to come, so that tribes may continue to use and care for these lands, and all may have an opportunity to enjoy their beauty and learn from their rich cultural history."
A coalition of the Hopi Nation, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray and Zuni Tribe will serve on the Bears Ears Commission, making the tribes co-managers of the national monument along with the federal government.
"For the first time in history, a president has used the Antiquities Act to honor the request of Tribal Nations to protect our sacred sites. In doing so, he has given the opportunity for all Americans to come together and heal," said David Filfred, Navajo Nation council delegate.
"This is a historic moment," the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, an independent citizens organization that has worked to help establish Bears Ears, said in a statement. "The new national monument—the result of a proposal from an unprecedented coalition of Tribal Nations—will safeguard more than 100,000 cultural sites and protect an incredible natural landscape for generations to come."
Outdoors retailer Patagonia, which has been active in support of these national monument designations as well as others, also applauded the announcement.
"In protecting Bears Ears, the president recognizes the leadership and historic vision of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition representing five tribes, and the strong grassroots support from climbers and conservation groups," Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said. "We are witnessing the power of community activism, and we thank President Obama for listening and taking action."
Speaking about the new Gold Butte National Monument, Ron Hunter, Patagonia environmental activism manager in Reno, Nevada, added, "At Patagonia, we recognize the fundamental connection between protecting our great outdoors and our business and that is why Patagonia is thrilled that President Obama has designated Gold Butte as a national monument. Thank you President Obama, Senator Reid, and Representative Titus for all you have done to protect Gold Butte."
But, these designations are fiercely opposed by some Republican members of Congress. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), who has told supporters of the Antiquities Act to "just die," is one of several Utah legislators to oppose the national monument designation for Bears Ears.
Rep. Bishop and Rep. Jeff Chaffetz (R-UT) co-authored the Public Lands Initiative, which sought to take 100,000 acres of tribal land and hand them over to oil and mining companies. Chaffetz called the announcement a "midnight move" by the outgoing Obama administration.
In a joint statement issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the work of Bishop and Chaffetz was acknowledged. "These designations build on the framework developed by the Congressmen to both protect and allow for continued use and enjoyment of the area by residents and visitors," it stated.
Bears Ears, in southeastern Utah, borders Canyonlands National Park and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. All current uses of the land that do not harm resources protected by the monument will continue to be allowed. These include off-highway vehicle recreation, hunting and fishing, and authorized grazing.
Gold Butte protects portions of the Mojave Desert in southwest Nevada along with Joshua tree forests and large stands of ponderosa pine. Retiring Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) had campaigned for the national monument designation.
"After working for decades to protect Gold Butte's breathtaking landscapes and cultural treasures, I was overjoyed to hear the news today from President Obama," Sen. Reid said. "The splendor of Gold Butte will now be protected for all of us. It will be enjoyed for generations to come and I appreciate the persistence of the many Nevadans who fought for its protection despite the obstacles."
President Obama has invoked the 1906 Antiquities Act 29 times, protecting more than 550 million acres, more than any other president.
"We applaud President Obama for taking action to permanently protect the culture and history of Gold Butte and Bears Ears," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said. "Protected open spaces like these are vital for healthy air, water, and climate, but they also provide powerful opportunities for healing—something vitally important as people come together during this tense moment in history. These designations, a response to strong tribal advocacy and years of work by local people, is a welcome reminder of the power of positive action and a chance to continue building the inclusive future we want to see in our public lands."
It remains to be seen if efforts to repeal any of these actions will be successful. However, Trump's pick to run the Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke (R-MT) is troubling, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Best piece yet on Trump's Interior pick, Zinke @EcoWatch https://t.co/Pj4JYW44g1— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@Robert F. Kennedy Jr)1481919367.0
In his first term as a Congressman, Zinke voted to weaken the Antiquities Act by limiting the president's ability to designate new national monuments. In 2015 the League of Conservation Voters gave Zinke a bottom-of-the-barrel 3 percent score for his environmental voting record and in 2016 the National Parks Action Fund gave Zinke an F for his voting record on key bills affecting national parks.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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