“I’m approving the Bears Ears recommendation for you, Orrin, ” Trump reportedly told the senator, according to The Washington Post. Hatch, who has called the monument a “travesty, ” said the call left him feeling “incredibly grateful.”
The site is named after a pair of buttes and is home to thousands of Native American archaeological and cultural sites. It has been at the center of the monuments controversy, and Trump requested an expedited, 45 -day review. It remains unclear how many acres the administration plans to strip from the monument, although the state is reportedly pushing for a 90 percentage reduction.
Friday’s news drew national headlines and sparked fresh outrage from the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, a group of five Native American tribes that petitioned to grant the region monument status.
“We have not been contacted with regard to changes to # s> BearsEars, ” the group tweeted Tuesday.
But the news was not a surprise.
Seemingly every remark and action the administration constructed leading up to Friday had suggested Bears Ears was headed for the chopping block, and that the review — at the least for this particular monument — was mostly for show.
Consider the day Trump signed his executive order. Standing below a portrait of Theodore Roosevelt — Zinke’s hero and the president who more than a century ago signed into law the Antiquities Act, which 16 chairmen have used to designate 157 monuments — Trump spoke as if stripping protections from Bears Ears was already a done deal. He boasted that he was aiming “another egregious abuse of federal power, ” putting “states back in charge” and opening up now-protected areas to “tremendously positive things.” He said the designation of Bears Ears was constructed “over the profound objections of the citizens of Utah” and “should never have happened.” And he praised Hatch for his “never-ending prodding” on the issue.
”[ Hatch] would call me and call me and say,’ You got to do this, ’” Trump said. “Is that right, Orrin? You didn’t stop. He doesn’t give up. He’s shocked that I’m doing it, but I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”
“We’re now getting something done that many people thought would never, ever get done, ” Trump added.
“It is public land, ” he said. “It was public land before the monument. It will be public land after the monument. What vehicle of public land is appropriate to preserve the cultural identity, to make sure the tribes have a voice and to make sure you protect the traditions of hunting and fishing and public access? ”
That same month, the Interior Department denied reports that Zinke had already made up his mind and would recommend abolishing Bears Ears. E& E News reported that San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman said Zinke disclosed his plans during a meeting with the commission earlier that month. Lyman later told HuffPost that E& E News had misquoted him and that he didn’t say Zinke would definitely recommend abolishing the monument. However, Lyman said, “there’s no question” the Trump administration is “moving in a certain direction” and that “my impression is he’d like to rescind it.”
Along with devoting more time to Bears Ears adversaries, the administration appears to have based the entire review on cherry-picked data. The Interior Department has claimed that since the Antiquities Act became law, “the average size of national monuments exploded from an average of 422 acres per monument” and that “now it’s not uncommon for a monument to be more than a million acres.”
In 1908, two years after the Antiquities Act became law, Roosevelt — of whom Zinke is an “unapologetic admirer and disciple” — designated more than 800, 000 acres of the Grand Canyon as a national monument. Only a few Obama-era land monuments are larger. Roosevelt also designated the 20,629 -acre Chaco Canyon National Monument and the 610,000 -acre Mount Olympus National Monument. Republican chairmen Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover both designated monuments of over a million acres. Coolidge set aside Alaska’s Glacier Bay in 1925, and Hoover set aside California’s Death Valley in 1933.
The Interior Department has yet to explain its 422 -acre figure, despite HuffPost’s numerous requests.
The review process has also seemingly ignored overwhelming public support for maintaining Bears Ears and other monuments intact. An analysis from the Center for Western Priorities found that 99 percent of the more than 685,000 public comments submitted during a 15 -day remark period voiced support for Bears Ears. In a report summary made public in August, Zinke said the overwhelming support for maintaining current monuments was the result of “a well-orchestrated national campaign organized by multiple organizations.”
There is no legal precedent that establishes the president’s authority to abolish, shrink or otherwise weaken national monuments. Congress , not the president, has sole legal power to rescind or weaken protections for monuments designated under the Antiquities Act, four legal scholars concluded in June. Area tribes and other groups have vowed to sue if and when Trump makes an official announcement.
Raul M. Grijalva( D-Ariz .), the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, did not mince words about Trump’s looming decision on Bears Ears: “It should be clear this’ review’ was a sham designed to let rich companies get richer off our public lands and resolve grudges against Presidents Obama and Clinton, ” he said in a statement Friday.
In a video ad the National Wildlife Federation released on Thursday, a day ahead of Trump’s phone calls to Hatch and Herbert, Navajo Nation delegate Davis Filfred pleads with Trump not to alter Bears Ears and other national monuments.
“Not all monuments divide us. Some bring us together, ” Filfred says. “If you destroy these monuments, our public land could be auctioned off. Our sacred tribal sites would be in danger.”