Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Trump slashes 2 Utah national monuments, draws lawsuits from Indians and environmentalists

Yesterday in Salt Lake City President Trump reduced the area of two major national monuments in Utah and split them into five new monuments. No president had ever done such a thing, and Native American tribes and environmentalists quickly filed lawsuits to stop it. "Several high-value sites the original monuments were designed to protect are left out," Brian Maffly reports for The Salt Lake Tribune.

Bears Ears National Monument, created by Barack Obama as he left office, was slashed from 1.35 million acres to 202,000 acres, and split into two new monuments: Shash Jaa (Navajo for Bears Ears) and Indian Creek. Grand Staircase-Escalante, created by Bill Clinton in 2001, was reduced from 1.9 million acres to 1 million, and was split into three new monuments: Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits  and Escalante Canyon. "Trump’s order specifically authorizes grazing in the Bears Ears area as well as motorized recreation and American Indian gathering of wood and herbs, and it asks Congress to pass legislation to mandate co-management by tribal leaders," Thomas Burr and Lee Davidson report for the Tribune.
The original Bears Ears National Monument (light pink) and new ones in red: Indian Creek at top, and Shash Jaa at bottom. Brown dots are sites proposed for oil and gas development. (Click here for interactive map)
Formerly protected areas that were cut from the monuments include Cedar Mesa and Elk Ridge. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said more than 400,000 acres of Cedar Mesa is "inaccessible wilderness" and can't be effectively monitored and protected by the Interior. He said that as a wilderness, it is protected more than it would be as a monument. The Kaiparowits boundaries were drawn in jagged lines apparently meant to free up some of the plateau's rich coal seams to mining.  Paleontologist Jeff Eaton, who has worked on the plateau for more than 30 years, told Maffly that the new boundaries for Kaiparowits were a "land management nightmare." Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, wrote on Fox News that national-park lovers should applaud Trump's move because over-reaching monument proclamations "have strained land management budgets and limited public access to beautiful places."
The original Grand Staircase-Escalante (light blue) and new monuments in dark blue, L-R: Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons. (Click here for interactive map)
Zinke said no land removed from monument status will be sold or transferred, and will return to its previous status as wilderness, national forest, or land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. "Raising the possibility of drilling and mining inside that monument’s former boundaries, 10 environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit in Washington, D.C., alleging the Antiquities Act does not allow presidents to diminish or rescind monument designations by their predecessors," Burr and Davidson report. A similar claim is made in a suit filed by five Native American tribes: Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian), Courtney Tanner reports for the Tribune.

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