Quantcast
Popular
The Citadel Ruins at the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management

Drilling and Mining Interests Pushed to Shrink Utah National Monuments, Documents Reveal

Even though Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke insisted "this is not about energy," environmentalists and public lands advocates have long suspected the Trump administration's cuts to national monuments were driven by its push for more drilling, mining and other development.

Now, internal Interior Department documents obtained by the New York Times show that gaining access to the oil, natural gas and uranium deposits in Bears Ears and coal reserves in Grand Staircase-Escalante were indeed key reasons behind President Trump's drastic cuts to the two monuments in Utah.


In March 2017, an aide to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked a senior Interior Department official to consider reduced boundaries for Bears Ears to remove land that contained oil and natural gas deposits. Hatch's office sent a map depicting a boundary change for the southeast portion of the Bears Ears monument to "resolve all known mineral conflicts," the email said, referring to oil and gas sites on the land that the state's public schools wanted to lease out to increase state funds.

As the Times reported, the map that Hatch's office provided—and notably sent about a month before Sec. Zinke publicly initiated his review of national monuments in April—was incorporated almost exactly into the much larger reductions President Trump would later announce.

In December, despite widespread public support to preserve protections for public lands, Trump announced he was gutting 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. The move was the largest elimination of protected areas in U.S. history.

The Interior Department documents also revealed concerns over gaining access to coal reserves in Grand Staircase-Escalante.

"The Kaiparowits plateau, located within the monument, contains one of the largest coal deposits in the United States," an Interior Department memo issued in the spring of 2017 stated. Nearly 11.36 billion tons are "technologically recoverable," it estimated.

Zinke has cited past presidential abuses of the Antiquities Act as the rationale behind his recommendations to Trump to shrink national monuments.

"No President should use the authority under the Antiquities Act to restrict public access, prevent hunting and fishing, burden private land, or eliminate traditional land uses, unless such action is needed to protect the object," Zinke said in August.

He has also insisted that resource extraction was not a reason behind the reductions.

"This is not about energy. There is no oil and gas assets. There is no mine within the Bears Ears monument before or after, so the argument that President Trump stole land is false, nefarious and a lie," Zinke told reporters in December.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Getty Images

Climate Change Is Already Making Hurricanes Wetter, Study Confirms

New research published in Nature Wednesday has confirmed that some of the most destructive hurricanes to pummel the U.S. in the past decade were made worse by climate change.

Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people in Louisiana, Hurricane Irma, which devastated the Caribbean and southeastern U.S. last year, and Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 in Puerto Rico, were five to 10 percent wetter because of global warming, scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Westend61 / Getty Images

EcoWatch Gratitude Photo Contest: Submit Now!

EcoWatch is pleased to announce its first photo contest! Show us what in nature you are most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Whether you have a love for oceans, animals, or parks, we want to see your best photos that capture what you love about this planet.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Baby mountain gorilla. Pixabay

Conservation and 'Renewed Hope': Mountain Gorilla Numbers Rebound

First, the good news. Collaborative conservation efforts have brought "renewed hope" for mountain gorillas and two large whale species, according to today's update from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The mountain gorilla subspecies moved from "critically endangered" to "endangered" due to anti-poaching patrols and veterinary interventions. In 2008, their population dropped to as low as 680 individuals––but the new estimates reveal that the number of mountain gorillas has increased to more than 1,000 individuals—the highest figure ever recorded for the eastern gorilla subspecies, the IUCN said.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Agricultural workers in Salinas, California. Michael Davidson / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

200+ Groups Call on Senate to Reject 'Pesticide Industry Loyalist' as USDA's Top Scientist

By Andrea Germanos

Denouncing his "strong ties to corporate agribusiness and pesticide companies," more than 240 groups urged the Senate on Wednesday to reject the nomination of Scott Hutchins, President Donald Trump's pick for chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
The world's forested area shrunk by 129 million hectares between 1990 and 2015. Pixabay

France Looks to Curb Palm Oil and Beef Imports to Halt Deforestation

In a significant move to combat worldwide deforestation, the French government unveiled a national strategy on Wednesday that looks to curb imports of soybean, palm oil, beef and beef products, cocoa, rubber, as well as wood and its derivatives.

The new plan, a joint effort from five French ministries, identifies these items as contributing the most to "imported deforestation"—meaning these products are directly or indirectly tied to forest degradation.

Keep reading... Show less
Oceans
The dramatic conclusions of a recent study on ocean warming have been cast in doubt by newly discovered errors. marion faria photography / Getty Images

New Findings Cast Doubt on Claim That Oceans Have Warmed 60% More Than Scientists Thought

Two weeks ago, EcoWatch reported on a terrifying study that claimed the world's oceans had warmed 60 percent more in the past 25 years than previously thought. This raised the possibility that the earth was more even more sensitive to climate change than scientists had believed, meaning we have even less time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep temperatures within a livable range.

In the two weeks since the study was first published in Nature, however, errors have been spotted in the paper that cast doubt on that alarming 60 percent figure.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
Pixabay

Turkey Is Bad on Antibiotics—Pork and Beef, Even Worse

By David Wallinga, MD

Heading into the holidays, many of our families are planning meals centered around a delicious turkey, ham or brisket. But a new analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and our partners at Food Animal Concerns Trust shows that our families' health is at significant risk from how these American meats are typically produced.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
The Great Australian Bight is home to one of only two southern right whale calving grounds in the world. Greenpeace / Jaimen Hudson

An Oil Spill in the Great Australian Bight Could Be Twice as Bad as Deepwater Horizon

Equinor, Norway's state oil company formerly known as Statoil, has faced criticism from environmentalists over its plans to drill the Great Australian Bight off the country's southern coast. A potential spill in the area would threaten the ecosystem and endanger the largest breeding populations of endangered southern right whales in the world.

Such fears are now confirmed if a blowout should actually occur, according to a leaked draft Oil Pollution Emergency Plan authored by Equinor and obtained by Greenpeace's Australia Pacific branch.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!