John Spezia: What is the status of Bears Ears, Grand Staircase?
Grand Staircase-Escalante was designated as a National Monument 22 years ago, and Bears Ears was designated as a National Monument two years ago. Both achieved this status under the Antiquities Act, established in 1906, which gives the President the authority to confer protections on public lands of historical and environmental value by designating them as National Monuments. There was a several-year public input process that resulted in the decision to designate these national monuments.
There have been only a few reductions of the 157 National Monuments designated in the last 112 years. These were later reversed and turned into many of our major National Parks.
Now, we are seeing a wholesale reduction that does not serve the purpose of the Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears and four other National Monuments. The result will be a degradation of archeological sites, water basins, biological communities and cultural heritage sites as well as established local economies — all for a short term approach that discounts future generations.
The situation: The President rescinded the Antiquities Act based on less than 1 percent of the respondents who supported reduction. A Native American coalition from across the nation, outdoor companies, economic groups, environmental organizations and other individuals took the government to court to prevent the desecration of these public lands.
A group of elected representatives who want to exploit this area have presented a bill to make the reduced size official in order to the nullify the court action. In addition, another proposed bill by Rep. John Curtis changes the membership of the Native American Tribes Advisory Committee focused on the protection of their cultural heritage to a more resource extraction focused committee. This will result in further degradation of the reduced National Monuments.
Finally, the Bureau of Land Management has already put out the bid process for leasing the remaining area for oil, gas, coal and uranium extraction, even before all other judicial laws and legislative processes have been addressed.
Are the fundamental laws of our nation being followed? Should we trust appointed government officials with a demonstrated bias to follow these laws?
Whether liberal or conservative, most of us want fundamental judicial laws and processes to be followed. We may disagree with some laws and support other laws. But if public officials don’t follow the rule of law, we all experience chaos and are subject to unfair treatment, which deeply affects our freedom and way of life.
If you are concerned about the future of these monuments and the rule of law, provide comment to the Bureau of Land Management. For Bears Ears National Monument, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 11. For Grand Staircase-Escalante send an email to email@example.com by April 13.
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