National Monuments open for business: Mining and drilling to begin on public lands

Today marks the "largest rollback of protections for public lands and waters in U.S. history."

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Starting today, acres of sacred public land will be up for grabs. Opening it up to hard rock mining, the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah will no longer be protected.

Trump announced his decision to reduce Bears Ears National Monument by about 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante to 46 percent its original size in December and, therefore, open the national monuments to the interests of oil and gas companies.

Despite much opposition from Indigenous rights groups, conservationists and other environmental groups, Trump said his decision to “shrink the monuments,” which President Obama gave protection to in 2016, “was made in the interest of giving the land back to the people of Utah,” according to Common Dreams.

“This is a shameful and illegal attack on our nation’s protected lands,” Jamie Rappoport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, said. “National monuments are designated for their scientific, cultural, and conservation value – because they are too important to damage and degrade.”

There are currently five Native American tribes inhabiting Bears Ears – the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and two Ute tribes.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, called the “dismantling” of Bear Ears “outrageous” and “a serious attack on indigenous people’ rights in the United States,” according to Common Dreams. She went on to say that Trump’s decision will now expose “thousands of acres of sacred lands and archaeological sites to the threats of desecration, contamination, and permanent destruction,” which was once protected for the “preservation of regional Native culture.”

While Trump left out any mention of fossil fuel companies or other corporate interests when giving a speech after his December decision, dozens of federal oil and gas leases just in Bears Ears National Monument will allow companies to take advantage of the land for their own use, according to Common Dreams.

Trump’s action is the “largest rollback of protections for public lands and waters in U.S. history,” Valerie Love, deputy organizing director for Ignite Change, said, as the public lands opens to stakeholders today.

“It will ignore the 2.8 million Americans who have spoken out in defense of these public lands, and will undercut the jobs and revenues they bring to local economies from outdoor recreation and tourism,” she said.

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