December 4, 2017
ALBUQUERQUE – After months of speculation, President Trump announced today that his administration will shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments in Utah by over two million acres, putting tens of thousands of Native American sacred sites in southern Utah at renewed risk of looting and desecration. This action goes against our American heritage, the stated positions of 30 regional Native American tribes, and the best interests of local economies. By ignoring the input of Native American leaders, sportsmen and women, veterans, local businesses, faith communities, and countless others who fought for this monument, this administration is once again siding with industry at the sake of our heritage and outdoor future.
The recommendations come months after the Interior Department began a review of 27 national monuments established since 1996. New Mexico Wildlife Federation staff and allies traveled to Bears Ears National Monument on multiple occasions to see firsthand this unique landscape and support local community efforts to protect this unique and sacred area. The monument allows for hunting, grazing, outdoor recreation, and protects over 100,000 cultural sites. It is clear under this administration that our shared cultural heritage is under attack.
“This administration continues to ignore the will of the people and perhaps most significantly the rights of Native people who are instrumental in managing Bears Ears National Monument, a place of great spiritual importance to so many,” said New Mexico Wildlife Federation Executive Director Garrett Vene Klasen. “Reducing these monuments is an unprecedented attack on our public lands, is most likely illegal, and threatens the future of our outdoor traditions. Tribal communities and other public lands stakeholders will be negatively impacted by this decision for years to come.”
While Trump’s visit focuses on the unprecedented shrinking of the Utah monuments, his administration continues to leave the fate of additional monuments hanging in the balance. New Mexicans are still waiting to hear what will happen to Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments. Given the outpouring of support for our monuments during the review period, it is unfair to leave New Mexicans guessing at the fate of our public lands.
Today’s recommendations will surely lead to years of litigation and uncertainty, which may limit access to and economic activity dependent on our public lands. Reducing our public lands could have a serious negative impact on local economies which have seen a boost recently thanks to increased tourism from monument status. Sportsmen and women, who worked for years to protect this area, could lose some of their most treasured hunting grounds. The blatant disregard by the Trump administration and Utah’s congressional delegation of regional tribes, who celebrated when their pleas to protect lands sacred to the culture and subsistence were finally heeded with Bears Ears’ designation, is shameful and goes against what America stands for.
The New Mexico Wildlife Federation will continue to fight this attack on our national monuments. We will need your help to win.