Several politicians and organizations have released statements regarding the proclamations Pesident Trump signed Monday to shrink two of Utah’s national monuments.
Senator Orrin Hatch
“I’m thrilled and grateful to President Trump and Secretary Zinke for giving Utahns a voice in the protection of Utah lands. The President’s proclamation represents a balanced solution and a win for everyone on all sides of this issue. It also represents a new beginning in the way national monuments are designated, paving the way for more local input, and taking into account the actual letter and intent of the Antiquities Act, which calls for the ‘smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.'”
Congressman Rob Bishop
“I applaud President Trump for recognizing the limitations of the law. Americans of all political stripes should commend him for reversing prior administrations’ abuses of the Antiquities Act and instead exercising his powers within the scope of authority granted by Congress.
“These new proclamations are a first step towards protecting identified antiquities without disenfranchising the local people who work and manage these areas. The next steps will be to move beyond symbolic gestures of protection and create substantive protections and enforcement and codify in law a meaningful management role for local governments, tribes and other stakeholders.”
Congressman John Curtis
“I am grateful to President for coming to Utah to help us resolve this important issue,” Rep. Curtis said. “Now that the President has created two new monuments in my congressional district, the time has come for congress to ensure that these sites are managed the right way. In the coming days, I look forward to introducing legislation to ensure we are just doing that.”
The Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Zuni Tribe
Leaders of the five Tribes that advocated for creation of the Bears Ears National Monument expressed indignation over President Trump’s unlawful and unilateral move to revoke and replace Bears Ears National Monument. Despite multiple requests from tribal leaders to meet with him on Bears Ears, President Trump made up his mind and acted without meeting with the Tribes whose cultures, lands and history the monument is intended to protect. This is in keeping with Secretary Zinke’s failure to adequately consult and engage with the Tribes on Bears Ears.
“President Trump’s illegal action is a shameful attack on Tribes, and it will not stand,” stated Carleton Bowekaty, Zuni councilman. “The President’s action is without legal authority and without respect for the Native Americans that worked for decades to protect these resources. His proposal is a strong statement to Tribes across the nation that Native American values and interests are not important to the Trump administration.”
“Bears Ears isn’t just about a few artifacts in isolated locations. Our cultures are still here and still thriving,” said Shaun Chapoose, member of the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee. “The Bears Ears region is a cultural landscape – a place to nurture our families in our traditions. The monument came about through government-to-government negotiations with the previous administration, state and local officials. The President’s proposed unilateral action pleases a few powerful Utah Politicians. It’s a sad state of affairs, but we are prepared to fight for our rights, and to protect Bears Ears.”
“We have direct ties to the Bears Ears region, and this area is immensely important to us. We wanted to educate President Trump about our connection to Bears Ears, but he ignored our request,” said Harold Cuthair, Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Chairman. “We will not stand by and let this happen without a fight.” Cuthair continued.
“President Trump’s arbitrary proposal to eliminate protections for sacred lands leaves tens of thousands of historical and cultural sites vulnerable,” said Alfred Lomahquahu of the Hopi Tribe.
“The monument was already greatly reduced from what the Tribes originally requested. Now, without consultation and without notification, President Trump is breaking the government’s promise to work with Tribes to protect the homeland of our ancestors.”
“The Navajo Nation has made repeated requests to meet with President Trump on this issue. The Bears Ears Monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation but to many tribes in the region,” President Begaye said. “The decision to reduce the size of the Monument is being made with no tribal consultation. The Navajo Nation will defend Bears Ears. The reduction to the size of the Monument leaves us no choice but to litigate this decision.”
“Bears Ears National Monument is not just for Native Americans but for all Americans,” Vice President Jonathan Nez said. “This is a sad day for indigenous people and for America. However, we are resilient and refuse to allow President Trump’s unlawful decision to discourage us. We will continue to fight in honor of our ancestral warriors who fought for our way of life, for our culture and for our land too.”
“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk, but we came back,” said Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred, who represents five of the seven Utah Chapters (county-like governments of the Navajo Nation). “The President’s proposal is an attack on Tribes and will be remembered as equally disgraceful —but once again we will be back. We know how to persist; we know how to fight; and we will fight to defend Bears Ears.”
Bears Ears has been home to Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni people for countless generations. The national monument took more than 80 years to designate. The original proclamation by President Obama acknowledges a cultural landscape rich in antiquities, with hundreds of thousands of archaeological and cultural sites sacred to dozens of tribes. President Trump’s proposal to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument leaves tens of thousands of sacred sites vulnerable to looting and grave robbing—the very threats the Antiquities Act was designed to protect against—as well as to fossil fuel development and uranium mining.
Center for Western Priorities
“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.
“The Antiquities Act does not give the President the legal authority to eliminate or reduce a national monument– a power exclusively delegated to the U.S. Congress. This is yet another pathetic example of Trump’s continued abuse of power in support of special interests.
“This action is an unacceptable affront to the Tribal Nations who came together to protect the sacred lands of the Bears Ears National Monument.
“In 1998, Grand Staircase-Escalante was amenable to a land exchange for mineral extraction; it appears that it did not satiate special interests’ greed. Over the last twenty-six years, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and its gateway communities built up its economy through tourism. Replacing recreational landscapes with drilling pads, machinery, and public restriction stands to devastate thriving and emerging businesses and the people they support.
The national monument review and this most recent action to effectively eliminate these places in Utah is disgrace to our democracy.”
Center for Biological Diversity
“The gutting of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is a violent act, an assault on America’s public lands,” said author and Utah native Terry Tempest Williams, a Center for Biological Diversity board member. “With Senator Orrin Hatch by his side, Trump’s is an act of conscious aggression waged against the health and protection of our communities, both human and wild. In a word: criminal.”
“Trump’s unprecedented, illegal action is a brutal blow to our public lands, an affront to Native Americans and a disgrace to the presidency,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “He wants to hand over these lands to private industry to mine, frack, bulldoze and clear-cut until there’s nothing left for our children and grandchildren.”
Friends of the Earth
Donald Trump is overseeing the largest elimination of protected areas in U.S. history. Dismantling these monuments is Trump’s latest gift to the corporate interests who backed his campaign. This action is unprecedented and will end up in court.
Public lands are to be managed for the public, not plundered by private interests that want to make billions off public resources. The majority of Americans want to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Southern Utah Wilderness
In response to President Trump’s proclamations today that eviscerate Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Executive Director Scott Groene issued the following statement:
“Today’s illegal proclamations by President Trump represent the single greatest attack a president has ever launched against America’s federal public lands. It is certain that the legacies of both President Trump, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who goaded him into this despicable act, will be forever tainted by their assault on more than two million acres of Utah’s wild lands that are beloved by the American public.”
“SUWA is committed to defending these monuments in court, and confident that today’s political action will be overturned. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments will be restored to their full glory, and President Trump’s action today will be remembered as another failed attempt to thwart the will of the American people, who want these lands to remain protected.”
With regard to his attack on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Trump divided it into three smaller sections totaling roughly 1 million acres, (a 48% reduction [900,000 acres less]) than the original monument.
“By eliminating nearly half of Grand Staircase-Escalante, President Trump has opened up some of the most wild and scenic redrock canyons in Utah to the lost cause of coal mining. For 21 years, the protected Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has inspired families to reconnect with the wild and with each other, has reinvigorated surrounding communities, and lead to significant paleontological discoveries. It has even been affirmed and ratified by Congress. Trump’s grandstanding disregards the success of this monument, merely because Sen. Hatch instructed him to.”
With regard to his ferocious attack on Bears Ears National Monument, Trump replaced it with two, much smaller, non-contiguous units totaling less than 230,000 acres (an 83% reduction [1.15 million acres less] when compared to Bears Ears).
“President Trump’s decimation of the Bears Ears is just the latest in a long string of insults he has lobbed toward Tribes, five of which worked diligently for years to ensure the protection of their cultural homeland.”