ON MONDAY, December 4, 2017, President Trump announced that around 2 million acres of federally protected land in Utah will be taken out of the National Monument system. Since 1906, under the Antiquities Act, presidents have had the power to unilaterally assign land to be protected as national monuments. Sixteen presidents to date have done so, creating 129 protected areas; some of them, including the Grand Canyon, have been turned into National Parks.
In September 1996, President Clinton established Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (over 1.8 million acres). In December 2016, President Obama established Bears Ears National Monument (over 1.3 million acres). If the Trump administration’s orders come to fruition, Bears Ears will be reduced to 15% of its current size. Grand Staircase-Escalante will be slashed in half. It doesn’t appear it will stop there, either. There are already recommendations to reduce four more national monuments.
Both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante are widely known as some of the most diverse and beautiful public parks, not just in Utah, but in all the US. They are home to slot canyons, ancient rock art, caves, rivers, mesas, and hundreds of species of insects and animals that are endemic to the areas. With its rich history, Bears Ears is also considered sacred land by more than six Native American tribes in the area.
How to join the fight to save the land
Many have already begun fighting to reverse these threats by taking this policy to court. Five Native American tribes — Navajo Nation, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian, and Pueblo of Zuni — have joined to challenge the shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument. They claim that the Antiquities Act does not allow presidents to remove or modify national monument status, only to designate. Another lawsuit has also been filed on behalf of ten environmental groups to challenge the order to reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
It should be noted that never in the 111-year history of the Act have the courts had to weigh in on these matters. There have been times when presidents have reduced areas of protected land but they’ve never been challenged in court. Trump’s reductions are the largest in history.
If you want to take up the fight to stop this from happening, here are a few ways you can get involved and support the organizations who are fighting to keep the lands preserved:
Contact your senator
Use the pre-made message by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance here to urge your senators to fight for these national monuments.
It’s no secret that President Trump doesn’t shy away from engaging on this social platform. Click on the link below to write a tweet through the Outdoor Industry Association and join thousands of voices like yours.
There’s a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to build a Bears Ears Education Center. Shortly after Trump’s announcement, they hit their fundraising goal of $100K — so they’ve stretched their goal by, symbolically, 85%.
Support the Bears Ears Coalition
You can contribute financially to help the Native American tribes in their battle for Bears Ears National Monument. Go to this page where you can also sign up to get updates and use a pre-composed Tweet to show President Trump where you stand.
Support the Grand Staircase Escalante Partners
There are three things you can do today to support Grand Staircase-Escalante.
For more ways to help in this matter and others that affect our lands, visit the Outdoor Industry Association.