• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
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

Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
Ron Ridenour
Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries
Douglas Bevington
Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fail
Gary Leupp
“Escalating Tensions” with Iran
Jonathan Power
Making the World More Equal
Cesar Chelala
The Social Burden of Depression in Japan
Stephen Cooper
Imbibe Culture and Consciousness with Cocoa Tea (The Interview)
Stacy Bannerman
End This Hidden Threat to Military Families
Kevin Basl
Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag
Nicky Reid
Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America
Louis Proyect
A Second Look at Neflix
Martin Billheimer
Closed Shave: T. O. Bobe, the Girl and Curl
David Yearsley
Hard Bop and Bezos’ Balls
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail