I am horrified at steps being taken by Secretary Zinke to drastically reduce our national monuments. The elimination of large portions of the two monuments in Utah, as well Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon and Gold Butte in Nevada, are purely political in nature – undoubtedly as a reward for Trump’s supporters in those states. In the case of Bears Ears, these actions fit Trump’s agenda of discrimination against tribal people and other non-white people. Rather than continuing to ignore them, Trump need only listen to the five tribal governments with ancestral ties to the region pleading to keep the new monument the way it is.
But Secretary Zinke is fully embracing the disposal of national monuments as a way to make the lands “available to the public,” as if providing it to resource extraction companies makes them more available to you and to me. Oil, gas and coal mining are not “traditional uses” that make our public lands more “available” to you and me.
Let’s not obfuscate facts. Native traditional uses and sacred sites are under attack by these politicians and their industry friends, and these remain the very reason tribes continue to back monument designation. A move to eliminate large portions of Bears Ears would perpetuate an historic injustice and disrespect for Native American tribes and would be a betrayal to all Americans. This is a chance at some real overdue healing our nation needs.
And a move to eliminate large portions of Grand Staircase-Escalante will unleash, in Zinke’s own words, “several billion tons of coal and large oil deposits,” further exacerbating global warming with increasingly dramatic effects on our planet, let alone giving away rights to ghost highways claimed by some Utah counties that would thwart resource conservation.
Lastly, not only would it likely be deemed illegal if Trump acted on Zinke’s recommendations, he’d be openly flaunting public opinion. Ninety-nine percent of 2.8 million people participating in their sham comment review period said “leave our national monuments intact.” Zinke’s report belongs in the trash heap and that’s where Trump should put it.