Published June 12, 2017
WASHINGTON — In an apparent attempt to appease both sides of the argument on whether or not Bears Ear should keep its national monument status, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says the monument needs to “right-sized.”
The U.S. Department of the Interior distributed a news release on Monday, indicating Zinke submitted a 45-day interim report on Bears Ears National Monument to President Donald J. Trump on Saturday, June 10, 2017, in accordance with the April 26, 2017, Executive Order (EO).
The order directs the Secretary to review monuments designated under the Antiquities Act between January 1, 1996, and the present date that are 100,000 acres or more in size, or any monument the Secretary deems to have been created without appropriate public input. The EO also directs the Secretary to submit an interim report regarding Bears Ears specifically to the President no more than 45 days from the date of the EO.
“I’ve submitted my 45-day interim report to President Trump expressing my belief that the monument needs to be right-sized and that it is absolutely critical that an appropriate part be co-managed by the Tribal nations. I also recommend that Congress take action to protect some areas,” writes Zinke.
President Obama, through an executive order last year, made Bears Ears a national monument. American Indians in the region were pleased with the distinction. Utah politicians are calling for the Bears Ears distinction as a national monument gone.
Utah Diné Bikéyah, a group that works to protect and preserve cultural uses of public lands by tribes, issued the following statement on Monday afternoon:
“We are deeply upset at Secretary Zinke’s announcement today. The Secretary failed to take the time to listen to the very people who know best what is at stake at Bears Ears and ignored overwhelming support in Utah for the monument. If the Administration proceeds in attempting to shrink the monument, we could lose funding potential, proactive management, and law enforcement resources for the land that would no longer be included in the monument. Within those lands sit some of the state’s richest biodiversity, hundreds of thousands of important Native American artifacts, and sites sacred to Native Americans and beloved by so many more Utahns.
The Secretary’s recommendation isn’t about doing what’s best for Utah. It’s not about the nuances of the Antiquities Act or differing views on land management. It’s about appeasing political allies and special interests; it’s an illegal move to turn back the clock one hundred years on tribal relations and Utah’s economy.
President Trump should ignore this hasty report and should visit with the people who live here in San Juan County. He should review recent polling that suggests the vast majority of Utahns, including voters on both sides of the aisle, support the monument. If the President does act on Secretary Zinke’s suggestions, we are prepared to defend protection in court. However, Native American Tribes, Western governors, and anyone who cares about public lands should be on notice now—Native American citizens in Utah demand to have a seat at the table and be treated like everyone else when it comes to strengthening our communities, building an economy, and sustaining our cultural traditions. A threat on Native American participation in our democracy, is a threat to all Americans.”