Bears Ears Native American Monument Likely to Shrink

Last summer, I rode through a decent portion of the Northwest and Western states on vacation. Although our schedule didn’t allow for a long-winded visit in Utah, I was privileged to see the near-ethereal landscape of Utah. I hope to someday be able to visit Bears Ears.

On December 28, 2016, President Barack Obama declared 1.3 million acres of land in San Juan County as a monument. The monument contains two mesas, which are known as Bears Ears. The land itself is practically untouched and is riddled with historic, natural, and cultural resources.

Monday, December 4, 2017 — Donald Trump plans to visit Salt Lake City to announce the plan to shrink the Bears Ears monument by up to 92 percent, says Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. Trump mainly wants to dismantle the monument due to its rich supply of untouched resources. The loss of Bears Ears would also be seen as a sizable loss for certain tribes as well as environmentalists. By seeing the land as nothing more than a means of monetary resources and political schemes, Trump disregards the spiritual and cultural value of the land. Not all that glitters is gold, Mr. Trump.

Despite the near-certainty that Trump will push his plan forward today, he’s going to receive resistance from many tribes, who intend to battle him on the issue in court. Their victory is important for both the present and future — this court case will establish the role of the President regarding national monuments. Although Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson both ruled to shrink monuments, the court has never specifically stated whether or not the President has the authority to do so under the Antiquities Act. Should the tribes win, Trump won’t have the power to shrink other monuments to destroy tribes and environmentalists. Should Trump win, he’ll most likely shrink a plethora of other monuments for development.

At the end of the day, this isn’t just a fight between Trump and environmentalists, or Trump’s petty agenda to dismantle Obama’s past actions, but rather, a battle for justice. Native Americans and the government have had an abysmal track record, and with the Dakota Pipeline Protest, it’s clear that Native Americans have a voice and refuse to sit quietly while Trump steamrolls his legislation on their land. This fight is crucial to calling forward a strong trend of democracy and protest on all fronts.

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