Trump Orders Decimation of Two American Treasures

The president signed proclamations today that would drastically shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Bob Wick/BLM

In an unprecedented attack on our nation’s most cherished public lands, President Trump announced today his plans to gut two of Utah’s national monuments. Bears Ears, more than one million acres of sprawling red rocks and the first national monument to be comanaged by indigenous groups, would see a dramatic 85 percent reduction. Trump also signed a proclamation for reducing Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly 46 percent.

“This is unprecedented—and it’s illegal,” NRDC president Rhea Suh said.

After years of consideration—and petitioning by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and groups like NRDC—President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to declare Bears Ears a national monument in December 2016. The area is sacred to many Native Americans and home to more than 100,000 archaeological sites that have long been threatened by looting, vandalism, and industrial development. “It's hard to describe the sheer vastness and majesty this protects,” Suh said.

But not long after assuming office, Trump ordered U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the status of 27 national monuments created under the Antiquities Act. Despite receiving 2.8 million comments from the public in support of our national monuments, Zinke submitted a report in August recommending that the president eviscerate protections for at least 10 publicly held land and marine monuments—and proposed opening them up to drilling, logging, commercial fishing, and other for-profit activities.

“Presidents use the Antiquities Act to create national monuments and protect our special lands and waters for future generations,” Suh said. “This president thinks he can use it to destroy them, grabbing the iconic landscapes and marine areas all Americans own, and handing them over to polluters and private interests. He does not have that authority. We will stand up for the millions of people who’ve asked the Trump administration to preserve—not rip apart—our national monuments.”

Today’s egregious assault on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is an assault not only on vitally important protected areas in Utah but on all our national monuments, our cherished lands and waters, and on the Antiquities Act itself. The Trump administration’s focus on prioritizing polluters and profits over people and our shared natural heritage is truly appalling—and against the law.

“What’s next, President Trump—the Grand Canyon?” Suh asked. “See you in court.”

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