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Tue Apr 7, 2020, 05:26 PM

"Trump is the only president to try to undo a national monument designation. The suit has been filed

Spencer Black: The future of our national monuments is at stake


By Spencer Black | local columnist 7 hrs ago

'Public Trust' (copy)

A featured film this year is "Public Trust," which examines the fight for public lands in the United States. Seen above is Bears Ears National Monument, one of the centerpieces of the movie.

Steven Gabriel Gnam

A few weeks before the social distancing guidelines for the coronavirus were issued, I practiced social distancing of a different sort. I spent some time hiking in the remote canyons of the hauntingly beautiful landscape of southern Utah.

President Barack Obama protected 1.35 million acres of this magnificent area of remote canyons, high mountains, desert mesas and archaeological sites, designating it as the Bears Ears National Monument. The name comes from two prominent buttes which resemble, with some imagination, ursine ears. Obama’s action to protect the area came at the urging of conservationists and 25 southwestern Native American tribes, including the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo and Ute. He used his authority under the Antiquities Act, a law created by Teddy Roosevelt which has safeguarded many of America’s most special areas.

As I wandered through magnificent red sandstone canyons and spotted thousand-year-old ruins of a past civilization, I felt as if I’d been transported into a magical world. But as otherworldly as my time in Bear Ears was, I could not ignore the real world of Donald Trump’s war on our outdoors, which is threatening to decimate this ecological and archaeological treasure. While I was marveling at the wonders of Bear Ears National Monument, Trump was finalizing management plans to open the area up to despoliation by oil, gas and mining companies. Donald Trump is trying to reduce the area of Bears Ears National Monument by a heartbreaking 85% after a concerted lobbying campaign by uranium mining companies — a lobbying effort previously led by Andrew Wheeler, who is now Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

While the Antiquities Act empowers presidents to designate national monuments, advocates for our outdoors are now in court contending the law does not give presidents the right to eliminate or reduce national monuments. In the 112-year history of this law, Trump is the only president to try to undo a national monument designation. The suit has been filed by environmentalists and Indian tribes.

Bears Ears is adjacent to Canyonlands National Park. The terrain ranges in elevation from 3,700 to 11,300 feet, and this significant elevation difference has caused a wonderland of colorful erosional features including natural bridges and arches as well as oasis like desert streams and a deep gorge of the Colorado River.

As wondrous as the natural landscape is, it is the cultural landscape that truly calls for protection. Bears Ears is home to more than 100,000 cultural and archaeological sites. It had been called the “most significant unprotected archaeological area in the United States.” Native Americans have lived in the area for millennia and their villages from 1,000 years ago are still visible and relatively well preserved in the desert dryness. On one of my hikes, I spotted an ancient village on a cliff side with dwellings intact and a turkey pen standing ready to contain birds.

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Reply "Trump is the only president to try to undo a national monument designation. The suit has been filed (Original post)
riversedge Apr 2020 OP
CaptYossarian Apr 2020 #1

Response to riversedge (Original post)

Tue Apr 7, 2020, 06:59 PM

1. Spencer is also a national treasure.

He was always good for Wisconsin in saner times.

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