In justifying its decision to reduce the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, the Trump administration said the protections of those lands were examples of government overreach.
The irony of that statement is thick.
The Antiquities Act that establishes national monuments was signed in 1906 by another Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, and provides some accounting for another, far more insidious example of federal overreach—the relentless theft of lands from indigenous people.
The Antiquities Act was so named because it sought to safeguard the legacy of prehistoric, native cultures whose priceless, archaeological artifacts were being plundered.
Even more ironic: Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has described himself as an “unapologetic admirer” of Roosevelt.
When President Obama designated Bears Ears in 2016, he emphasized the need to protect some of the nation’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archeological sites, and lands considered sacred by native tribes.
Grand Staircase-Escalante, designated by President Clinton in 1996, was the last place in the continental United States to be mapped. It “provides extraordinary opportunities for geologists, paleontologists, archeologists, historians, and biologists in scientific research, education, and exploration,” according to the federal Bureau of Land Management.
The current administration's decision to promote fossil fuel development by reducing the size of these monuments—by 85 percent, in the case of Bears Ears, and by half at Grand Staircase-Escalante—represents not only another assault on the environment, but also one more shameful stain on the record of federal actions against indigenous people.
@ 2017 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies