The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Trump to Gut Bears Ears by 85%, Grand Staircase-Escalante by 50% on Monday
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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Brian Barth
Late fall, after the last crops have been harvested, is a time to rest and reflect on the successes and challenges of the gardening year. But for those whose need to putter around in the garden doesn't end when cold weather comes, there's surely a few lingering chores. Get them done now and you'll be ahead of the game in spring.
By Bailey Hopp
If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.
(R) The measles virus pictured under a microscope. PHIL / CDC
The Pacific Island nation of Samoa declared a state of emergency this week, closed all of its schools and limited the number of public gatherings allowed after a measles outbreak has swept across the country of just 200,000 people, according to Reuters.
By Alison Cagle
Rising above the Arizona desert, the Santa Rita Mountains cradle 10,000 years of Indigenous history. The Tohono O'odham Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and Hopi Tribe, among numerous other tribes, have worshipped, foraged, hunted and laid their ancestors to rest in the mountains for generations.
Native Americans are disproportionately without access to clean water, according to a new report, "Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan," to be released this afternoon, which shows that more than two million Americans do not have access to access to running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater services.
By Nanticha Ocharoenchai
In the Czech Republic, horses have become the knights in shining armor. A study published in the Journal for Nature Conservation suggests that returning feral horses to grasslands in Podyjí National Park could help boost the numbers of several threatened butterfly species.