Saydie and I have to take a brief trip into Utah to the Paria Contact Station, to pick up our wilderness hiking pass. The Paria Contact Station, located on the periphery of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, is one of the BLM information centers for people visiting monument gems like The Wave, Coyote Buttes, and the Paria River. It is located near White House Campground and Trailhead, which is a common starting point for people hiking the Paria River.
Unfortunately when we got there we discovered that the Contact Station was actually closed.
So I called them and they said my electronic purchase of a wilderness pass would suffice, and that if I could pick up a wilderness pack that they had hanging at the information board.
Now for a brief comment on protection of public lands.
As a member of the Sierra Club, and annual member supporting the National Parks protection of these wilderness areas is important to me, and should be for us all. In 2017 President Trump made two monumental error in judgement among others but thats another issue. He issued these two Presidential proclamations.
- Read the proclamation modifying the Bears Ears National Monument
- Read the proclamation modifying Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
These actions represent the most sweeping assault on protected public lands in American history.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 grants presidents the power to create monuments, but not to undo or shrink them. That authority rests exclusively with Congress. President Trump’s attempts to gut our national monuments are a gross overreach of executive power, and they cannot stand.
President Trump has said about bronze confederate monuments that he’s “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart.” But his actions to eviscerate national monuments do more than that — he’s trying to tear apart not just our history, but the pre-history of our great country as well.
What he has done to these two monuments is proof and a strong indicator that he serves very narrow special interests at the expense of public lands. Make no mistake — President Trump is trading protection of dinosaur fossils for the pipe dream of mining uneconomic coal at Grand Staircase. Twenty-one new species of dinosaur have been discovered since the creation of the monument where the coal deposits are found.
Bears Ears National Monument is more than just a way to protect cultural resources, fossils, geology, and history. It represents an opportunity to learn from the five tribes that joined together to protect Bears Ears — Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni — about their profoundly sacred relationship with the landscape. I believe Trump’s attack on Bears Ears is unjust and unlawful.
Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s deeply flawed and opaque monuments review process conducted over the course of just a few short months. In many cases, the efforts to protect these places through monument designation took years and even decades.
Zinke delivered his final recommendations to the White House on August 24, 2017 and in the culminating example of the concealment that stained the entire process, kept his recommendations secret. The draft recommendations were leaked, but he has yet to make his final recommendations public.
During his review, Zinke “pardoned” several of the 27 monuments on the hit list. Speaking on some of the monuments he recommended be left alone, Zinke said of Canyons of the Ancients, “The history at this site spans thousands of years, and the federal protection of these objects and history will help us preserve this site for a thousand more years.” He said of Craters of the Moon, “As a former geologist, I realize [this monument] is a living timeline of the geologic history of our land.” And he said that Grand Canyon-Parashant represents “the scientific history of our earth while containing thousands of years of human relics and fossils.”
Grand Staircase and Bears Ears national monuments contain all these qualities and more. They are more than a stunning record of thousands of years of human history, magnificent scenery, geology, and a treasure trove of fossils and dinosaur bones. They are our shared natural and cultural heritage. Secretary Zinke’s recommendations and President Trump’s actions are nothing more than an attempt to tear down the legacy of their predecessors at the expense of future generations.
Americans want to see our parks and monuments strengthened for future generations, not eviscerated for short-term gain by fossil fuel and uranium mining interests.
You may have heard from Trump administration officials that the areas whose protections within national monuments were gutted today are already protected. While some areas are Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Study Areas, these kinds of designations were never intended to be permanent like national monuments are. Many places in Bears Ears, including hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest that were cut, have no such protections, and are loaded with irreplaceable cultural resources that now are vulnerable to looting, energy development, and other projects that destroy cultural sites.
In order to permanently protect public lands, either Congress or a president must act to convert temporary protections to permanent protection like national monuments or wilderness. But the Utah congressional delegation has proven itself virtually incapable of writing and passing legislation that actually protects public lands. Utah still has less designated wilderness than any other Western state. When the Trump administration tries to sell you the idea that these places are still protected, don’t buy it. President Trump has removed protections for Utah’s oldest rock art site near Bluff, for the northernmost great house village site from the Chaco era in Utah, and for countless other important cultural sites.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R, Utah), the primary booster of the plan to gut Bears Ears and Grand Staircase, said President Trump’s action “strikes an excellent balance where everybody wins.” But the only winners are those who wish to see national monuments eviscerated to score political points or to drill or mine some of our last and best wild places.
We need to protect these lands.
This entry was posted in Blog, National Parks