Quantcast

'Theft Of Our Heritage': Thousands Protest Trump's Cuts to Utah's National Monuments

Saturday rally at Utah State Capitol against President Trump's anticipated cuts to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. League of Conservation Voters

President Donald Trump will visit Utah today to announce dramatic cuts to two national monuments in the state.

Trump is expected to speak at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City at 12:30 p.m. According to reports, he will announce the gutting of the 1.3 million acre Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and the slashing of the 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 50 percent. The move will be the largest elimination of protected areas in U.S. history.


National monuments can be designated by presidents under the Antiquities Act, which puts the lands off limits to drilling, mining, logging and ranching. Trump says former presidents abused the act.

Bears Ears was designated in 2016 by President Barack Obama. Grand Staircase-Escalante was created by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

Trump's plan to shrink the two monuments came after a review by Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke that the president ordered in April. 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, Grand Staircase-Escalante sits atop "several billion tons" of coal. Coal and oil reserves also surround Bears Ears.

Trump's decision was made despite widespread public support of the designations. More than 2.8 million people submitted comments to the Interior Department urging the administration to preserve protections for the lands.

Over the weekend, more than 5,000 people rallied at the Utah State Capitol to protest Trump's decision.

"Flatly, Trump does not have the legal authority to gut our national monuments nor does he have the support of the people of Utah to do so. Thousands of Utahns raised their voices today, in recognition of the cultural, archaeological, and environmental significance of these areas," Sierra Club Utah Chapter Director Ashley Soltysiak said of Saturday's demonstration. "Today's rally showed the strength of support for Tribal sovereignty and Utah's public lands."

A protest is also planned at the State Capitol during the president's visit today.

Monument supporters warn that reducing the land's borders and opening them up to drilling, mining and other development would destroy Native American cultural and archaeological sites and lead to loss of wildlife.

As Bruce Babbitt, the Secretary of Interior from 1993 to 2001 and the Democratic governor of Arizona from 1978 to 1987, eloquently wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Friday:

Mr. Trump's plans add up to the largest elimination of protected areas in American history. He is a vandal in our midst, coming in person to lay waste to the land. This theft of our heritage should awaken us to the damage being piled up across our public lands under this administration.

If he succeeds, tens of thousands of Native American sacred sites in southern Utah will be at renewed risk of looting. Red rock canyon lands will face the prospect of being stripped for coal and drilled for oil and gas. And the wild places where we hike and hunt and find solitude may not be there for future generations to do the same.

Native American tribes such as the Navajo, Hopi, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Mountain and Ute Indians that consider Bears Ears sacred territory have vowed legal action.

"We will be fighting back immediately. All five tribes will be standing together united to defend Bears Ears," Natalie Landreth, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, told Reuters.

Reuters reported that Republican Congressman Rob Bishop of Utah, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, is expected to introduce legislation after Trump's announcement to carry out the cuts. However, the measure's chance of passing the Republican-controlled body is unclear.

Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico promised he would try to stop Trump's cuts.

"[President Trump's] ignorance and disrespect diminish the office of president of the United States," Udall said. "He will be challenged in court, and I will fight him every step of the way in my capacity as democratic leader on Senate Indian Affairs and the Interior Department Appropriations Subcommittee."

Environmental groups as well as outdoor clothing company Patagonia are also expected to fight Trump's action in court.

"Since taking office, the Trump administration has abandoned its responsibility to protect America's public lands for our children and our grandchildren, and they've rejected the voices of millions of Americans," said Patagonia president and CEO Rose Marcario. "Removing protections for federal lands could result in permanent destruction of these treasured places and could jeopardize access for all of us. As a result, Patagonia will continue our fight to protect Bears Ears National Monument in the courts."

Sponsored
IKEA is working on a specially-designed, air-purifying curtain called the GUNRID. IKEA

Air pollution within the home causes 3.8 million deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization. A recent University of Colorado in Boulder study reported by The Guardian found that cooking a full Thanksgiving meal could raise levels of particulate matter 2.5 in the house higher than the levels averaged in New Delhi, the world's sixth most polluted city.

But soon, you will be able to shop for a solution in the same place you buy your budget roasting pans. IKEA is working on a specially-designed, air-purifying curtain called the GUNRID.

Read More Show Less
The first member of the giant tortoise species Chelonoidis phantasticus to be seen in more than 100 years. RODRIGO BUENDIA / AFP / Getty Images

A rare species of giant tortoise, feared extinct for more than 100 years, was sighted on the Galápagos island of Fernandina Sunday, the Ecuadorian government announced.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Elena Pueyo / Moment / Getty Images

By Adda Bjarnadottir, MS

Opinions on coffee vary greatly—some consider it healthy and energizing, while others claim it's addictive and harmful.

Read More Show Less
Morning fog over a boreal forest in Alaska. Alan Majchrowicz / Stockbyte / Getty Images

By Jennifer Skene and Shelley Vinyard

For most people, toilet paper only becomes an issue when it unexpectedly runs out. Otherwise, it's cheap and it's convenient, something we don't need to think twice about. But toilet paper's ubiquity and low sticker price belie a much, much higher cost: it is taking a dramatic and irreversible toll on the Canadian boreal forest, and our global climate. As a new report from NRDC and Stand.earth outlines, when you flush that toilet paper, chances are you are flushing away part of a majestic, old-growth tree ripped from the ground, and destined for the drain. This is why NRDC is calling on Procter & Gamble, the manufacturer of Charmin, to end this wasteful and destructive practice by changing the way it makes its toilet paper through solutions that other companies have already embraced.

Read More Show Less
Cycling advocates set up "ghost bikes," like this one in Brooklyn, in memory of bikers killed in traffic. Nick Gray / CC BY-SA

By John Rennie Short

As cities strive to improve the quality of life for their residents, many are working to promote walking and biking. Such policies make sense, since they can, in the long run, lead to less traffic, cleaner air and healthier people. But the results aren't all positive, especially in the short to medium term.

Read More Show Less