In what may be the ultimate proof that nothing is sacred for the Trump administration, the president announced today he will sign an executive order that significantly shrinks the size of two National Monuments in Utah, Bears Ears Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante, and opens up millions of acres to mining, ranching and (of course) fracking and oil drilling.
The move (led by swamp creature Orrin Hatch) reduces the acreage of Grand Staircase-Escalante by at least 46 percent; Bears Ears—where there are an estimated 100,000 Native American archaeological sites—will be shrunk by a startling 85 percent.
Both places have been part of the cultural heritage for at least five native American tribes in the state, including the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi and the Pueblo of Zuni, who still conduct sacred rituals and ceremonies on the land.
The five tribes had even formed an inter-tribal coalition, the first of its kind between these tribes, back in 2015, to convince Obama to designate Bears Ears as a National Monument, which he did just days before he left office. It was the first national monument status request to be granted to native tribes.
But now it looks like all that may be for nothing, and ranchers, oil companies, and Republican state senators couldn’t be happier. Here’s what some of them are saying:
People are tired of the federal government locking up our land. It’s an overreach. Imagine if you put one of these monuments smack dab in the middle of New York.
State Senator Kevin Van Tassell, with no due respect, what the fuck are you even talking about?
Trump is in Utah right now (but not dropping by either of the two National Monuments, how about that?), and demonstrators are standing up (well, lying down actually) to protest his visit.
Like everything else Trump does, the executive order itself is fraught with legal uncertainty, since courts have never made a definitive ruling on whether a president has the power to reduce lands that are designated by former presidents as National Monuments under the Antiquities Act.
A group of over 120 scholars have signed a letter arguing that only congress can revoke, reverse or alter these designations (not that it would help much anyway).
The coalition of tribes in Utah, as well as environmental groups, are vowing to fight the order in court. The case will most likely have big implications for the future of executive power and land conservation in America.