The Antiquities Act of 1906 states that the president of the United States can declare any area with scientific, historic, or cultural value a national monument, but says nothing about whether a president can decrease the size of a pre-existing national monument. However, just this week Donald Trump announced his decision to ‘give back’ 2 million acres of the Utah national monuments Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
The idea that releasing 2 million acres of canyonland from the protection of a national monument title is ‘giving back’ the land to the people is ridiculous. Let’s be clear, when a national monument is created, the US forest service does not come in and kick everyone out. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. Before Bears Ears was declared a national monument by president Obama, people would go to the park to hike on trails, hunt, and fish. It was a location many Native American tribes resided, as well as a land that could be used for grazing by nearby residence. Now, as a national monument, all of these activities are still maintained. Pre-existing laws created by the state of Utah still stand and state officials maintain a say in the decisions regarding the park. The only thing that has changed is that the canyonland and its unique ecosystem are now protected under federal law.
One of the arguments that has been circulating this week in favor of Trump’s declaration is that with the 2 million acres ‘given back’, construction for bathrooms and fire pits will be permitted to accommodate hunters, fishers, and people who bring their animals to graze. However, this is the whole point of conserving an area: to ensure that humans are not allowed to rip out native plants, destroy natural habitats, and add pollutants to the surrounding area just so that the ocasional hunter can have a nice bathroom. While some may argue that these efforts to maintain wildlife and their habitats pose a great cost to their welfare, conservation actually offers many benefits for humans as well as nature. The implementation of national monuments has been shown to increase the overall economy, rate of employment, and per capita income of nearby residence. Grand Staircase-Escalante was part of the study that drew these conclusions and is a living, breathing example of the benefits generated by national monument sites. Aside from economic benefits, both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante support desert ecosystems, which many scientists have concluded serve as carbon sinks by absorbing fractions of atmospheric carbon and storing it in the soil.
The only real ‘drawback’ of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante being proclaimed national monuments is that mining for coal or other natural resources is prohibited. However, even this can’t really be seen as a negative since it serves to mitigate climate change, as well as protect the natural ecosystems found in the two canyonlands. Thankfully Trump’s announcement has been met with outrage and protest both by the public and by private companies such as Patagonia and REI. The legality of this decision is still in question and multiple lawsuits are being raised in an effort to maintain all of the land in both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante as part of a national monument.
– Carly LeMoine
Love Patagonia’s response-just the one statement “The President stole your land”
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Don’t know why i am surprised just another example idiotic thinking and pandering to special interests. I think he also just wants more bathrooms to tweet from.
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