Nancy Working: Help fight a monumental mistake
“This land is your land; this land is my land.” Nowhere else is this song expressed more wonderfully than by a visit to a National Park or monument. My memories of backpacking in the Bears Ears are of hiking down a steep canyon rim, gazing at rugged cliffs, marveling at rock art and experiencing reverence in this magical land.
Of Grand Staircase-Escalante, I have memories of llama hikes, camping on soft peachy sands under a clear, cold starry night, scrambling up boulders and appreciating the sounds of rain chattering in the crevices and creeks.
In a speech on Dec. 4, announcing the reduction of Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase Escalante, Trump proudly boasted, “Public lands will once again be for public use.” Evidently, he did not hear the public, which includes environmental and conservation groups, Indian tribes or the outdoor business community about this decision.
He did not mention the millions of public responses that were received during the public comment period when possible reductions were first presented. The percentage of comments that opposed reduction of Bears Ears was 95.6 percent, and 92.1 percent for the Grand Staircase-Escalante. He also ignored the rigorous approval process that resulted in the creation of these monuments.
Bears Ears will be reduced 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly half. It is the largest reduction of protected areas in U.S. history. If the reductions are allowed, these lands will be returned to big business, oil, gas and uranium for exploration and exploitation.
While Trump describes the Antiquities Act as a “land grab,” it is really a piece of valuable legislation signed by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.
According to the National Park Service, “ the Antiquities Act is the first law to establish that archeological sites on public lands are important public resources. It obligates federal agencies that manage the public lands to preserve for present and future generations the historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of the archaeological and historic sites and structures on these lands. It also authorizes the President to protect landmarks, structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as National Monument.”
What can you do? Consider donating to one of the many legal funds set up to fight this monumental mistake. Earthjustice filed suit against the reduction to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on behalf of a dozen conservation organizations. The Navajo Nation and Native American Rights Fund also filed a lawsuit regarding the reductions to Bears Ears. Learn more about how this reduction affects Native Americans and contribute at bearsearscoalition.org.
Also be aware, Utah Republican Representative, Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has introduced a bill that would prevent presidents from designating monuments larger than 85,000 acres and give states and local officials the power to veto a monument larger than 10,000 acres. This bill is waiting for a House vote. Contact Representative Scott Tipton at 202-225-4761 or 970-241-2499 and ask him to support our public lands and vote “no” on this bill.
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