Typical of anything that Trump is doing, these moves are purely political in nature — undoubtedly a reward for Trump’s supporters in those states. Additionally, in the case of Bears Ears, these actions fit Trump’s agenda of discrimination against Native people and other non-whites. He continues to ignore the enormous effort a five-tribe coalition has put forth to create the monuments. These five tribal governments with ancestral ties to the region have been pleading to keep the new monument the way it is. Instead, Trump and Zinke have fully embraced 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.
There are no two ways about it. Native traditional uses and sacred sites are under attack by these politicians and their industry friends, and this remains the very reason tribes continue to back monument designation. A move to eliminate large portions of Bears Ears perpetuates historic injustice and disrespect for Native American tribes and is a betrayal to all Americans. Additionally, 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, this illegal move flaunts public opinion and desires. Ninety-nine percent of 2.8 million people participating in their sham comment review period said “leave our national monuments intact.” Trump’s action is racist, vindictive, damaging and serves only as one of his rewards for the oil extraction industry and red-state delegates that supported him — as well as a means to punish those that did not.
—Margie Lopez Read