FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Is This the Bear Ears’ Final Battle?

On December 4, 2017, President Trump cut millions of acres from two national monuments in Utah. With a simple proclamation, Grand Staircase-Escalante was reduced by nearly 50 percent. Bears Ears National Monument was slashed by 85 percent.

Within days, lawsuits were filed to stop Trump’s order. A coalition of Native American tribes, the outdoor retailer Patagonia, and nonprofit preservation organizations all sued, arguing that the president exceeded “the limited authority delegated to his office,” violated “the Antiquities Act and the separation of powers established in the Constitution” and circumvented the law by “attempting to evade that strict limitation” of his power.

A month ago, it seemed the fate of these monuments lay in the courts. Not anymore.

One of the plaintiffs’ key arguments is that the president lacks legal authority to reduce or extinguish national moments—only Congress does. Enter the Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act. Introduced by Representative John Curtis, a Republication from Utah, the bill would make permanent Trump’s reduction to Bears Ears, ending litigation by mooting questions over presidential authority.

As Carleton Bowekaty and Shaun Chapoose of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition recently wrote in The Hill, the Curtis bill is full of doublespeak. Reportedly, Rep. Curtis did not meet with a single tribal official yet his bill claims to to create the first Tribally plunderedskullscolwellmanaged national monument.” In fact, it was President Obama’s administration, who spent years consulting with Native Americans and established an advisory commission made up of one elected official from each of the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute and Zuni tribes to guide Bears Ears’ management. The Curtis bill would alter the commission to include a county commissioner who supports the president, exclude tribes outside Utah, and empower the president to select most commission members. These changes fundamentally undermine tribal rights of self-representation and self-determination.

The Curtis bill, though, is likely not really about Native Americans—or their heritage at all. We now know that Energy Fuels Inc., a Lakewood-based uranium firm, lobbied the Department of the Interior in the spring of 2017, and other mining and business lobbyists reportedly pressed the administration. Although the original Bears Ears Monument preserved “existing users,” including mining, and would have created new jobs around outdoor and conservation industries, the Curtis bill will open enormous tracks of land to new extraction. Simply put, the Curtis bill is asking Americans to trade in thousands of irreplaceable archaeological sites and a vast natural preserve for the fleeting money to be made from oil, gas, coal, and uranium.

Given the turmoil over presidential designations of monuments in Utah, perhaps it is good for Congress to have their say. But if Congress is the will of the people, what is our will? One 2017 poll found that 52 percent of Utahns supported the reduction. However, more evidence suggests that Bears Ears has broad public support. Another 2017 poll reported that 47 percent of Utah voters think the original Bears Ears designation was a good thing (compared to 32 percent who thought it bad). That same poll found that 83 percent of Coloradans—with nearly identical numbers in six other Western states—think that existing national monuments should be protected. During a public comment period in 2017, of the tens of thousands of comments the government collected, an analysis shows that an overwhelming majority support keeping the full Bears Ears Monument intact.

For those who believe Bears Ears is a special place that should be safeguarded for all Americans, this is the moment to contact your representatives in Congress. Otherwise, the Curtis bill could be the final battle in the war over Bears Ears.

Dr. Chip Colwell is the founding editor-in-chief of SAPIENS. His new book is Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America’s Culture.

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
January 27, 2020
Peter Harrison
Adani and the Purpose of Education
Dean Baker
Can Manufacturing Workers Take Many More of Trump’s Trade “Victories”?
Robert Fisk
Trump in Davos: US isolationism is Reaching Its Final Narcissistic Chapter
Ariel Dorfman
The Challenge for Chile and the World
Victor Grossman
The Misuses of Antisemitism in the UK and the USA
Thomas Knapp
Bernie Sanders, Joe Rogan, Human Rights Campaign, and Truth in Advertising
Fred Gardner
NewsGuard Can Save You From Putin!
Lawrence Wittner
A Historian Reflects on the Return of Fascism
Rose Miriam Elizalde
Cuba: a Matter of Principle
Bob Topper
The Better Moral Creed
George Wuerthner
Giving Cover to the Abuses of Big Ag
Christopher Packham
This is Really Happening
Negin Owliaei
Americans Need to Hear More From Iranians, Here’s Where to Start
Ted Rall
Corporate Crap That Doesn’t Kill Bernie
Elliot Sperber
Sunset’s Soon
Weekend Edition
January 24, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
A Letter From Iowa
Jim Kavanagh
Aftermath: The Iran War After the Soleimani Assassination
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Camp by the Lake
Chuck Churchill
The Long History of Elite Rule: What Will It Take To End It?
Robert Hunziker
A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed
Andrew Levine
Trump: The King
Jess Franklin
Globalizing the War on Indigenous People: Bolsonaro and Modi
James Graham
From Paris, With Tear Gas…
Rob Urie
Why the Primaries Matter
Dan Bacher
Will the Extinction of Delta Smelt Be Governor Gavin Newsom’s Environmental Legacy?
Ramzy Baroud
In the Name of “Israel’s Security”: Retreating US Gives Israel Billions More in Military Funding
Vijay Prashad
What the Right Wing in Latin America Means by Democracy Is Violence
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden’s Shameful Foreign Policy Record Extends Well Beyond Iraq
Louis Proyect
Isabel dos Santos and Africa’s Lumpen-Bourgeoisie
Nick Pemberton
AK-46: The Case Against Amy Klobuchar
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Promtheus’ Fire: Climate Change in the Time of Willful Ignorance
Linn Washington Jr.
Waiting for Justice in New Jersey
Ralph Nader
Pelosi’s Choice: Enough for Trump’s Impeachment but not going All Out for Removal
Mike Garrity – Jason Christensen
Don’t Kill 72 Grizzly Bears So Cattle Can Graze on Public Lands
Joseph Natoli
Who’s Speaking?
Kavaljit Singh
The US-China Trade Deal is Mostly Symbolic
Cesar Chelala
The Coronavirus Serious Public Health Threat in China
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Must Remain Vigilant and on Guard Against US Hybrid Warfare
Robert Fantina
Impeachment as a Distraction
Courtney Bourgoin
What We Lose When We Lose Wildlife
Mark Ashwill
Why Constructive Criticism of the US is Not Anti-American
Daniel Warner
Charlie Chaplin and Truly Modern Times
Manuel Perez-Rocha
How NAFTA 2.0 Boosts Fossil Fuel Polluters, Particularly in Mexico
Dean Baker
What the Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace With Productivity
Mel Gurtov
India’s Failed Democracy
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail