Trump Orders Largest National Monument Reduction in U.S. History

5th of Dec 2017

Senior Attorney Todd Tucci – Washington, DC Office

Yesterday, President Trump made his first visit to Utah to announce he is withdrawing protections for over 1.5 million acres of national monuments – threatening tens of thousands of cultural, historic, paleontological and ecological artifacts and objects.

President Trump shrank Bears Ears National Monument by nearly 90%, and carved about 50% from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This is the first time in the 110-year existence of the Antiquities Act – a law designed to protect special places and historic, scientific and cultural objects – that a president has used it to eliminate protections.

According to President Trump and Secretary Zinke, the lands and artifacts protected in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments do not warrant monument status because they are “not unique,” and not of “significant scientific or historic interest.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Over 2.5 million comments opposing Secretary Zinke’s review of our National Monuments were submitted this summer along with numerous well-attended protests. The public spoke out – but Trump and Zinke did not listen.

During his speech, Trump had the audacity to say that monument designations “prevent Native Americans from having their rightful voice over the sacred land where they practice their most important ancestral and religious traditions.” He claims his actions will help tribes reclaim their sacred lands. Yet one of the first lawsuits filed after Trump’s speech came from the Navajo Nation and numerous other tribes.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in a written statement: “The Navajo Nation has made repeated requests to meet with President Trump on this issue. The Bears Ears National Monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation but to many tribes in the region. The decision to reduce the size of the Monument is being made with no tribal consultation…The reduction in size of the Monument leaves us no choice but to litigate this decision.”

What President Trump and Secretary Zinke are not publicly stating is that the areas they carved from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante are some of the most resource-rich lands in the West. Their actions are paving the way for coal mining, oil and gas leasing and other industrialization within these irreplaceable lands.

Advocates for the West and our allies have been preparing for this fight for almost a year. We are working with Conservation Lands Foundation and others to bring science and law to bear and challenge President Trump’s appalling disregard for bedrock our environmental laws.