Have you heard? “The president stole your land,” and it’s the largest rollback of protected natural land in modern U.S. history. President Trump announced plans to shrink two national monuments in Utah by almost two million acres, which could result in an 85 percent decrease to Bears Ears National Monument, and an almost 50 percent rollback for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
This massive slash to protected land is virtually unheard of at the presidential level, and marks a serious push towards land deregulation at the federal level.
“Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong,” the president said in a press conference in Salt Lake City. “They don’t know your land, and truly, they don’t care for your land like you do.”
But environmentalists and progressive leaders disagree. Beyond being known for their superior natural beauty, these President-appointed national monuments also hold deep cultural, scientific, and historical significance -- all of which could be destroyed under the recent proclamation. For example, Bears Ears National Monument, with its thousands of archaeological sites and significance for five native tribes, sits on almost two dozen federal oil and gas leases, many of which could be opened up for drilling under the rollback.
Democrats and advocates also worry that these Utah monuments mark the beginning of big-time deregulation of federally protected natural lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended modifications to 10 national monuments spreading from the Pacific Northwest, to New England, with a special focus on those initiated by Trump’s immediate predecessors.
Native organizations, environmentalists, and the outdoor recreation industry have been quick to take action against Trump’s decision with lawsuits, public campaigns, and organizing on the frontlines.
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Do you want to protect our natural lands? Here how to get involved.
Support native tribes fighting to protect culturally significant land.
The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration within hours of the announcement. The coalition includes Ute Indian, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, Hopi and Navajo Nation tribes -- all of whom argue that Trump’s actions violate the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives the acting president the right to name and protect national monuments.
“President Trump’s action to revoke and replace the Bears Ears National Monument is not only an attack on the five sovereign nations with deep ties to the Bears Ears region, it is a complete violation of the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution,” wrote the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition in a press release. “ No president has ever revoked and replaced a national monument before because it is not legal to do so.”
The tribes have been quick and united in their attack, which aims to protect the more than 10,000 significant agricultural sites at Bears Ears National Monument and set a precedent for future decisions.
You can support their legal fight by donating to The Native American Rights Fund, Ute Indian Tribe Political Action Committee, and through the Navajo Nation’s GoFundMe campaign. You can also sign this petition to show your opposition to protected native land through the Ute Tribe.
Keep your eye on other major lawsuits challenging the President.
Ten environmental and conservation groups are hitting Trump with a collaborative lawsuit citing constitutional over reaches and the violation of the Antiquities Act among their complaints.
The lawsuit was filed by Earth Justice just hours after Trump announced his decision, and it’s backed by groups like the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The group opposed the reduction of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is rich in paleontological history.
Patagonia, the Conservation Lands Foundation, and the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology are also among a coalition of advocates suing to preserve Bears Ears National Monument.
Follow along with outdoor recreation companies like Patagonia and REI who have lent their online presence to fight for the monuments.
“The President Stole Your Land,” reads Patagonia’s blacked out homepage. “In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.”
The outdoor gear company converted their homepage to a call-to-action Monday, complete with visual depictions of the proposed land loss and a list of organizations taking action to protect monument lands. Patagonia makes it easy to sign up for text alerts about the monument protection movement, and has designed a series of prompted tweets to help you shower Trump and his administration with dismay in no time at all.
Outdoor companies like REI, North Face, and Arc’teryx have also spoken out against attacks on protected lands. North Face has promised a $100,000 donation to an education center at Bears Ears National Monument and Arc’teryx, a Canadian company, has promised to donate the net proceeds from their Black Friday online sale to the Conservation Alliance, plus an additional $30,000 the the Conservation Alliance’s Public Lands Defense Fund.
Make your voice heard and get involved.
Take a stand by telling your representatives that you oppose Trump’s decision to rollback national monument protections. The National Resource Defense Council makes it easy with pre-formatted messages that go straight to your elected officials, and the Nature Conservancy has you covered with a straight-to-Congress form.
You can also take to social media with trending hashtags like #MonumentsForAll, #MonumentalMistake, #StandWithBearsEars, and #SaveGrandStaircase to join with other advocates fighting for monument protection.
Then, get away from your computer and get involved! Organize a rally on public lands near your home to demonstrate your dedication to federal land conservation, and consider getting involved with your local chapter of the Sierra Club or another conservation-focused alliance to build moment around public land protection.