Response to President Trump’s Attempt to Erase Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monuments

Dec 4, 2017

DENVER—President Donald Trump today signed proclamations abolishing Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monuments. He is replacing them with five new and much smaller monuments. The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“Today President Trump is sacrificing tribal heritage, paleontological discoveries, and the small business owners who drive America’s outdoor economy, all in the name of coal, oil, and uranium. We’ve never seen an attack on America’s parks and public lands at this scale.

“This is the Trump legacy. He is the first president in American history to try to strip protections from millions of acres set aside for our children and grandchildren.”

Native American groups and sovereign tribal nations will immediately file suit to block President Trump’s proclamations in court. Mainstream legal scholars agree that the law, including the Antiquities Act of 1906 and the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976, does not give presidents the power to rescind national monument designations—Congress reserved that authority for itself.

Earlier this year, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s sham “review” of national monuments concluded with a secret error-filled report that ignored the wishes of 2.8 million Americans who urged Trump and Zinke to keep America’s national monuments intact.

Bears Ears National Monument was protected in 2016 at the behest of five sovereign tribal nations with a deep spiritual and cultural connection to the land. The national monument, which had first been proposed for conservation over 80 years ago, has one of the highest concentrations of cultural and archaeological sites in the nation. Prior to its protection, the archaeological sites in Bears Ears experience rampant looting and vandalism. President Trump’s decision threatens tens of thousands of cultural and archaeological sites.

Protected in 1996, Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument has become an important economic driver for rural communities in southern Utah. The remote region was the last area to be mapped in the continental United States and today the unspoiled cliffs and plateaus of the monument serve as a living laboratory for researchers and explorers, drawing visitors from across the world. The monument has been described as a ‘treasure trove’ for paleontology, offering scientists a rare glimpse into the ancient environments of the American West. Paleontologists have discovered 25 unique dinosaur species and expect to find more; only six percent of Grand Staircase–Escalante has been surveyed by paleontologists so far.

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