Published: Thu, December 07, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

The destruction of Bears Ears -- without reason

The destruction of Bears Ears -- without reason

Among the clergy was Lorrie Gaffney, a United Church of Christ pastor from Salt Lake City who said the group spotted antlered deer, turkeys, even a mountain lion with its cubs just as they drove through the national monument. But Native American and environmental protection groups fear removing federal protections paves the way for environmentally destructive corporate activities on land of archaeological significance.

The unprecedented move pleased conservatives who want the federal government to allow drilling and mining for fossil fuels and uranium, grazing and other development.

The same day, multiple environmental groups

The message Patagonia blared across its website Monday was stark and clear: "The President Stole Your Land", it read. The lawsuit argues that Trump exceeded his authority by overturning congressional legislation that added land to the monument after Clinton's initial declaration. Nearly as soon as the reduction was announced, a deluge of lawsuits were filed on behalf of many involved in that fight - including one by a coalition of 10 conservation groups, and one by a coalition of five Native American Tribes. "They don't know your land". The White House has pointed out that former President Wilson cut Mount Olympus National Monument in half in 1915.

Here in Utah, where about 2/3 of the entire state is federally owned and there are seven large monuments, this Act is a household name, and in some rural areas, a dirty word. "And the Antiquities Act was never meant to prevent, it was meant to protect". Trump said he wanted to undo previous administrations' "overreach" in establishing monuments much larger than necessary to protect specific sites.

Tribes and conservationists have been preparing lawsuits for months.

Earthjustice is representing eight organizations in a suit charging that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act by stripping monument protections from this national treasure: The Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project.

The National Parks and Conservation Association is probably the best known advocacy group for the system. As many of you know, past administrations have severely abused the objective, spirit, and intent of a century-old law known as the Antiquities Act.

But there's another tricky issue here.

History shows that when the federal government grants, sells or otherwise gifts federal land to states, 70 percent of the land is sold to private interests, jeopardizing public access.

Zinke is also proposing Trump create three monuments: at Camp Nelson, an 1863 Union Army site in Kentucky; the Jackson, Mississippi home of civil rights leader Medgar Evers; and the Badger II Medicine Area, a 130,000-acre section of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in his home state of Montana. He's ecstatic that President Trump is trying to shrink monuments across the rural West.

"It was more about control than it was about protection", says San Juan County Commission Chair Bruce Adams. If they press forward, more legal challenges are sure to follow.

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