As Published in The Commuter 5/10/2017
Earthen homes built into cliff-sides over 3,500 years ago, sacred to the Pueblo, are at risk of losing protection as a national monument. On Wednesday, April 26, President Trump signed an executive order reviewing protections afforded to the Bears Ears national monument in Utah after being urged by industry and state politicians.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who lauded President Trump’s order, has argued against protections for Bears Ears since President Obama designated it as a federal monument on December 28, 2016. Hatch wants to open the land to uranium mining and commercial development.
“For years, I have fought every step of the way to ensure that our lands are managed by the Utahns [who] know them best and cherish them deeply,” said Hatch said in a statement following President Trump’s order. “That’s why I’m committed to rolling back the egregious abuse of the Antiquities Act to serve far-left special interests. As part of this commitment, I have leveraged all of my influence—from private meetings in the Oval Office in the president’s first week in office to my latest trip to Bears Ears this week–to ensure that this issue is a priority on the president’s agenda.”
President Trump made statements preceding his signing of the executive order at the Department of the Interior.
“The previous administration used a 100-year-old law known as the Antiquities Act to unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control — have you heard about that?” said Trump.
The Antiquities Act, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, is a law that has been utilized by 16 presidents since Roosevelt. The law gives a president the authority to designate public property as federal monuments that are protected under law. Every president since Roosevelt has used the Antiquities Act except for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon.
Reagan fought to open public land to private development for oil. George H.W. Bush co-founded and co-owned an oil company before becoming involved in politics. Nixon was caught accepting illegal money from the dairy industry. All of them deregulated, to varying degrees, public land to increase industrial use.
The Statue of Liberty, Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, as well as the Grand Canyon National Park and 154 additional sites gained protection under the Antiquities Act. Some of the protected sites are also marine habitats.
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon is one of the 27 monuments due to be immediately reviewed by the Department of Interior. Craters of The Moon National Monument in nearby Idaho will also be reviewed. Within the 27 monuments are over 217 million acres of oceanic habitat and 11.3 million acres of public land that may be effected.
The Antiquities Act is a large portion of President Roosevelt’s legacy, an avid naturalist who believed deeply in the preservation of natural beauty and conservation of resources.
The executive order calls to review national monuments larger than 100,000 acres that were designated after 1996. If the Department of Interior recommends that federal monuments be downsized, Trump may then attempt to do so, although there is no legal precedent stating Trump can do so.
“It’s time to end these abuses and return control to the people, the people of Utah, the people of all of the states, the people of the United States,” said Trump.
Concerns have been raised with Trump’s executive order, not only from tribes and outdoor enthusiasts around Bears Ears, but around the country.
“Trump’s tapping into the right-wing, anti-public lands zealotry will take us down a very dangerous path – a place where Americans no longer have control over public lands and corporations are left to mine, frack, clear-cut and bulldoze them into oblivion,” said Executive Director of the Center for Biological Diversity Kieran Suckling in an interview with the Washington Times.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-NV., specifically asked Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in his January confirmation hearing about his plans for national monuments in Nevada, Zinke agreed to meet with the senator before making decisions concerning public land in the state.
“I will, and have been, very vocal about our public lands and what we need to do to protect them, but at the same time bring back resources and funding to the state because of it,” Cortez Masto told The Spectrum.
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia