For those abreast with current events, you know that our president recently announced that he would reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah. The administration shrank Bears Ears National Monument; the monument protects 1,351,849 acres of public land surrounding the Bears Ears, a pair of mesas. This is the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history. There is a lot of controversy behind the president’s decision to shrink these national monuments and rightfully so. This land has deeper roots then just being a national monument, this is land that belongs to Native communities that originally inhabited this land; and shrinking their land is robbing them of their culture and traditions.
There have already been complaints and suits filed due to this decision. Some Native Nations have stated that this decision will destroy the national heritage that exists in these monuments. Mr. Hale a Native American man from the area was quoted in the NY Times saying “It’s a historical trauma our people have been through over and over.” Russel Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation was quoted saying “We will stand and fight all the way; the United States government had already taken “millions of acres of my people’s land.” These quotes are both indicative of the feeling shared by many indigenous people who have seen their land inhabited and stripped from them.
Numerous lawsuits have already been filed in defense of the Grand Staircase monument. It is being said that only congress can legally shrink a monument, which will probably be the argument used in court when fighting the president’s decision. The fear is that this decision to reduce Bears Ear will start a legal battle that will change the outlook of land conservation. Dozens of other monuments will be at risk of being exploited by oil and gas extraction, logging, mining and other commercial activities.
The Dakota Access Pipeline should be a clear indication of all that goes wrong when we exploit our land due to greed. Tribes protested, and warned us of the dangers of creating this pipe line under a water source and we didn’t listen. Now that an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil have spilled during the Keystone oil spill we are finally forced to listen. But if we just respected the land to begin with and took the warning of the people Native to the land we wouldn’t be dealing with this issue now.
Hopefully this will not be the same story line we hear after things are all said and done with the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Monuments. It’s time for us to be more naturally considerate, and acknowledge the importance of preserving our land and traditions.