December 6th, 2017 Last Updated on: December 7th, 2017
As expected, Trump's visit to Utah meant that the size of two national monuments will be shrinking by thousands of acres.
Trump, by signing two presidential proclamations on Monday, shrunk the size of Bears Ears National Monument by more than 80% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by roughly 45%, fundamentally reshaping the two large national monuments.
The proclamations split the two national monuments into several smaller sections. Bears Ears will be shrunk from 1.35 million acres to 228,337 acres, according to the spokesperson for Interior, and split into two separate monument sections. Grand Staircase-Escalante, a monument designated by President Bill Clinton, will be split into three sections and shrunk from 1.9 million acres to just about 1 million acres.
Native American groups and environmentalists are ready to push back.
“We will be fighting back immediately. All five tribes will be standing together united to defend Bears Ears,” said Natalie Landreth, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other conservation groups also plan litigation against the Trump administration to challenge changes to both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase, said Steve Bloch, director of SUWA.
NPR spoke with Shaun Chapoose, Ute Indian tribe, who fought for the monument's protections in the first place.
“The original intent of the Antiquities Act was to protect our tribal sacred sites and the cultural objects in those sites. The history of our indigenous ancestors lives in these sacred places. Today’s action to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante endangers our freedom of religion, our histories and our communities,” stated Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI. “We stand with the Tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition as well as the Tribes impacted by other Monument designations.”
Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante were both designated under the original intent of the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act granted power to the President to create national monuments to protect Tribal sacred sites and cultural objects. The Act does not grant the President the authority to reduce and revoke the boundaries of national monuments as was done today.
NCAI’s membership is steadfast in its full support of all Tribes to protect their ancient objects and histories by National Monument protections. As the Administration continues the review process of national monuments, NCAI remains working to ensure all sacred sites remain protected.
“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 in 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.”
To find out how you can help the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, please visit http://bearsearscoalition.org/.
Photo by Bob Wick, BLM
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