Ernie OToole: Trump administration is threatening public lands |

Ernie OToole: Trump administration is threatening public lands

Dear Editor,

Your recent pieces on the importance of public lands are especially timely, because right now, there is an all-out attack on our public lands.

The Trump administration is slashing the size of two National Monuments in Utah — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase/Escalante. Both were established by the Antiquities Act of 1906. In fact, June 8 is the day when President Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law.

Bears Ears is a treasure trove of sandstone canyons and Ancestral Puebloan structures, with over 100,000 in 1.4 million acres. The administration intends to shrink it by 85 percent, leaving 72 percent of the archaeological sites vulnerable.

The Grand Staircase/Escalante NM is 1.8 million acres containing Ancestral Puebloan structures, striking scenery and dinosaur fossils. It is a mecca for outdoor recreation and a boon for the local economies. The Trump administration wants to reduce it by 47 percent.

Why does the Trump administration want these reductions? Simply put, extraction industries want to exploit them.

Because of the dubious legality of Trump’s intended actions, there are bills going through Congress to legitimize them. H.R. 3990 would gut the Antiquities Act.

It would remove geology, oceans and all other “objects not made by humans” from eligibility for monument designation. It would prohibit the designation of new monuments within 50 miles of existing ones. If the revisions had been included in the original Antiquities Act of 1906, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Arches, among others, could never have been designated.

The “Grand Staircase Escalante Enhancement Act” (that’s a laugh) would cement Trump’s action repealing Grand Staircase while throwing up a smoke screen by replacing it with the “Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve.” The proposed park is unlike any previous national park. Its boundaries are a mystery; no maps have been provided. The bill cedes control of the park and preserve to a seven-member commission partly composed of a state senator and four county commissioners.

The “Shash Jáa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act” would make permanent Trump’s action to shrink Bears Ears and create a management body that excludes three of the five tribes with ancestral ties to Bears Ears (Ute, Hopi and Zuni), makes appointments with advice from Utah’s anti-public lands congressional delegation, and includes two San Juan County commissioners. The San Juan County Commission spent 2016 calling for the elimination of the Monument.

The five tribes that were instrumental in establishing the monument, Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute and the Ute Indian Tribe are suing to defend Bears Ears.

The public land system protects our natural, scenic and cultural heritage and is the envy of the world. Do not let a few misguided politicians destroy what we love and hold dear.

Representative Scott Tipton sits on the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee and can vote “no” on the threats to the Antiquities Act. Call Rep. Tipton at 202-224-3121 and tell him to stand up for our national monuments and the Antiquities Act.

Ernie O’Toole

Chimney Rock Interpretive Association president

Chimney Rock National Monument

Pagosa Springs

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