In May, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spent a week in Utah with its conservative leadership and largely avoiding Native Tribal Leaders, business owners and environmentalists as he visited two National Monuments that have been established in the past 24 years, Bears Ears and Escalante National Monuments. The Trump Administration had been lobbied by Utah State Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee and Governor Gary Herbert who argued that the Obama administration unilaterally named the Bears Ears Monument without consulting the state officials or constituents. It should be noted that all three are climate change deniers and strong proponents for dirty industry which is notable as Utah consistently has some of the worst air quality in the nation (1) primarily due to under-regulated business. We know that not to be true as there were many months of meetings of the Obama administration with locals, local tribal leaders and business owners prior to establishing the Monument.
The state of Utah and Trump Administration says that establishing the monument is gross federal overreach and that the land, which is sacred to the local natives, is too profitable to be protected. In fact, oil leases had already been sold which stalled out once the area was declared a monument (2). Locals have strongly opposed this because of the fragile ecosystem and they are also concerned what ramifications it will have on their limited water supply (2). The loss of revenue from the oil leases is what spurred the urgency to the state senators and unfortunately not only Utah’s Monuments were caught in the cross hairs. All Monuments that were established in the last three Presidential administrations were made subject to review.
Upon Zinke’s tour of Utah he promised that he had a great understanding of the area and the impacts that the monuments had on the state’s environment and economy and he said that he would make a recommendation to the President in June. That recommendation has now been made and it does not bode well for Bears Ears supporters. Zinke has recommended that Washington reviews and reduces the size of the now 1.3 million acres that is currently protected. He claims that this will not diminish the sacred sites of the natives and he would like them to have a voice on the changes that are made; going so far as to say that he would like the tribes to co-manage the area (3). This is a small attempt to appease the locals while accommodating big oil.
The National Park Service put out an alert of eleven more sanctuaries that are now on the chopping block because they (the Trump Administration and lobbyists) want to open them up to oil and gas exploration and fishing. These include but aren’t limited to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off Hawaii, Rose Atoll Marine National Monument off American Samoa, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary off California and the Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary off Michigan. Please make it known that we stand together and we care for our environment and it is our job to be good stewards to the land, its inhabitants and history. This is a link where you can make your opinion heard until July 26th.