DEC 05, 2017 10:19 AM PST

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante more than halved

Much controversy has erupted over President Trump’s recent decision to cut two debated upon national monuments in Utah: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. His decision takes away 85% of Bears Ears designation and 46% of Grand Staircase-Escalante’s; Bears Ears will be reduced from 1.35 million acres to 228,337 acres and split into two sections in the process while Grand Staircase-Escalante will be divided into three sections and reduced from 1.9 million acres to 1 million acres.

The impact of this news reverberates throughout many different spheres of people and beliefs. Several environmental advocates and Native American tribes plan to sue the President for the move, saying that it is illegal. (Indeed, the legality of this move is disputed, as Trump is the first president who has tried to modify monuments established under the Antiquities Act.) Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Pueblo of Zuni have joined together to declare that they will file suit in the U.S. District Court for D.C. to challenge the action on Bears Ears. In addition, a coalition of eight environmental groups represented by Earthjustice has already begun the legal process for the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument.

Found and CEO of the Patagonia brand, Yvon Chouinard, is thinking along similar lines: "I'm going to sue him. It seems the only thing this administration understands is lawsuits. I think it's a shame that only 4% of American lands are national parks. Costa Rica's got 10%. Chile will now have way more parks than we have. We need more, not less. This government is evil and I'm not going to sit back and let evil win." (Check out Patagonia.com to see how the website has taken a stand, blacking out its homepage with the message “The President Stole Your Land”. The page provides an explanation of what’s happening with the option to learn more and take action. Social media is trending the news with the hashtag #MonumentalMistake.)

On the other side of the controversy are local ranchers, miners, and drillers who have always seen the monument designations as federal land grabs. San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman is glad that the President took the action he did. He comments that Bears Ears is the fifth national park or monument in his county and sets up the argument that tourism has had a bigger impact on the land than gas and oil extraction would. "By designating a monument, you are using a tool that will bring hordes of people to a place that is very sensitive," he says.

Bears Ears National Monument would become less than a fraction of the size of its current designation. Source: KUTV.com

But Governor Gary R. Herbert (R) takes a less charged opinion, and looks at the decision as “an opportunity to push a reset button on these areas.” He doesn’t believe that lands removed from the designation will immediately be devoured by oil and gas companies looking for leases. “There is a lot of scaremongering,” out there he says, but “the only thing that smacks of energy is the uranium.”

No matter what side you’re on, the truth is that one of the consequences of this decision means that the land could now be opened up for new activities such as energy exploration or motorized vehicle use. According to the Washington Post, the decision could also affect the extent to which future presidents could decide that the lands stay protected. How do you feel about this?

Sources: CNN, The Washington Post, Patagonia

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JAN 28, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 28, 2020
Do we have the energy to power the future world?
How much energy will it actually take to power our growing population? If you’re like many, perhaps you feel that the answer to this question isn&rsq...
JAN 28, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 28, 2020
Canadians Face Increased Risk of Mortality Due to Air Pollution
Air pollution is associated with an increased risk of death in Canada—even when air pollution is below national and international air quality guideli...
JAN 28, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JAN 28, 2020
Household Dust Samples Found to Contain Potentially Toxic LCD Chemicals
Our technology may be impacting our health in ways we did not realize....
JAN 28, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 28, 2020
After Hibernation, These Grizzlies Turn to Clams for Nourishment
Grizzly bears spend up to seven Wintery months hibernating, and in that time, they can lose a substantial amount of their body weight. While surrounding ma...
JAN 28, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 28, 2020
The Life of an Arctic Squirrel
There is no overstating the fact that the Arctic Tundra is a cold and unforgiving place. There are few plants or animals that can survive in this extremely...
JAN 28, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 28, 2020
This Octopus Emerges From the Water in Search of Food
Most octopuses live and breathe underwater, just like the vast majority of other marine animals. But this octopus endemic to Australia has a special abilit...
Loading Comments...