In a landmark proclamation on December 4, President Trump slashed the size of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 85 percent and 46 percent, respectively. This, in spite of the fact that 80 percent of commenters solicited in the review process opposed shrinkage, sparking a dearth of outrage at the intractability with which one man can impose his will upon public land.
Unlike previous uses of the Antiquities Act, Trump has given no credence to the public will with respect to his decision. He did not even consult with Native American tribes, even though it is their heritage that hangs in the balance. He ignored the comments solicited in the review process, and he bypassed the local eco-tourism industry, which is now in full-scale uproar.
Trump defended his decision by saying, “I called all of my friends in Utah and asked them … they said this would be incredible for our country.” Said “friends” included Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, who stands to make millions from the opening of previously protected lands to cattle grazing, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who has received more than $470,000 from oil, gas and coal interests since 2012 , both of whom have thanked President Trump fawningly for his largesse.
But thanks have not come from the people of Utah. Thousands filled the streets of Salt Lake City on Monday, December 4, 2017, telling the president, “Keep your tiny hands off our public lands,” and waving banners that read, “We stand on stolen land.” Navajo President Russell Begaye condemned the shrinkage as the latest in a series of dispossessions that have cost “millions of acres of my people’s land.” Conservationists have joined the tribes in suing Trump for the proclamations.
The people of Utah are well aware of the capital intensity of the fracking, mining and cattle industries that will crowd out eco-tourism over the next few years. They know that fracking, for…