The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) lease sale includes more than 51,000 acres of land near Bears Ears—the national monument significantly scaled back by the Trump administration last year—as well as the Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients monuments.
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.
Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke is the winner of the Center for Biological Diversity's 2017 Rubber Dodo award. The statue is awarded each year to the person or group who has most aggressively sought to destroy America's natural heritage or drive endangered species extinct.
"Ryan Zinke seems to wake up every day wondering how he can tear apart America's public lands, ramp up oil and gas development and put endangered species on a fast track to extinction," said Kierán Suckling, the Center for Biological Diversity's executive director.
By Stephanie Malin
Companies such as Energy Fuels, Inc. have played well-publicized roles in lobbying the Trump administration to reduce federal protection for public lands with uranium deposits. The Defense Department's Nuclear Posture Review calls for new weapons production to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which could spur new domestic uranium mining. And the Interior Department is advocating more domestic uranium production, along with other materials identified as "critical minerals."
Researchers, led by paleontologist Rob Gay, have discovered what may be one of the world's richest caches of Triassic period fossils at an extensive site within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument. The team's initial excavation led to the extraordinary discovery of several intact remains of crocodile-like animals called phytosaurs. The findings were publicly announced at this week's Western Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists (WAVP) annual conference where researchers warned of a growing threat to their work in the region.
The memo released by the Bureau of Land Management states that it seeks to "simplify and streamline the leasing process to alleviate unnecessary impediments and burdens ... to ensure quarterly oil and gas lease sales are consistently held."
by Jessica Corbett
Despite protests from conservationists, local tribe leaders, Democratic lawmakers and even the United Nations' expert on Indigenous rights, at 6 a.m. on Friday the Trump administration will allow citizens and companies to start staking claims on sections of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah so the new stakeholders can conduct hard rock mining on the formerly protected lands.
By John Dougherty
Shock, disappointment and warnings of potential for more armed standoffs over U.S. public lands were among the reactions Monday from two academic experts and a former Oregon county judge to a federal judge's order dismissing the government's criminal charges against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and a fourth man linked to militia groups.
Following the lead of Native American tribes, The Wilderness Society and other groups have filed lawsuits against President Trump for violating the Antiquities Act when he essentially eliminated Bears Ears and greatly reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.