Coalition Statement: Next 100 Coalition Opposes Proposed Reduction of Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments
Washington, D.C. – December 6, 2017: On December 4, President Donald Trump announced a drastic reduction in size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments in Utah, marking the largest attack on our public lands in history. The President’s decision resulted in a total reduction of Bears Ears National Monument by more than 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante by half. The Next 100 Coalition, a group of over 40 civil rights, environmental justice, conservation, and community organizations serving and representing diverse communities, previously shared their opposition to the review. The Coalition firmly stands against the President’s two executive orders, and any efforts to rescind and or reduce the protections of other national monuments.
The Next 100 Coalition supports the protection of the sacred sites, traditional uses, and antiquities that represent a high priority for tribal leadership. We also noted that polling in 2016 showed that 71% of Utahns supported the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.
Despite this support, the Administration’s attack on public lands continue. Yesterday, the Interior Department gave no indication of slowing these public land protection rollbacks. Secretary Zinke confirmed that he has recommended additional reductions to national monuments in Nevada, Oregon, and California. Zinke also recommends an ongoing review of monuments leaving no monument free from unwarranted scrutiny and potential rollback. This review could imperil several other monuments, including civil rights sites in Birmingham and Anniston, AL, and Beaufort County, SC; Stonewall National Monument in New York; and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in southern California.
Tribal leaders were swift to respond to the announcement about Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments with rebuke. “The original intent of the Antiquities Act was to protect our tribal sacred sites and the cultural objects in those sites. The history of our indigenous ancestors lives in these sacred places. Today’s action to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante endangers our freedom of religion, our histories and our communities,” stated Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians, a member of the Next 100 Coalition. “We stand with the Tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition as well as the Tribes impacted by other Monument designations.”
Other Coalition members have spoken out on the decision as well. Bryan Martin, Executive Director of Big City Mountaineers noted: “Once again, this administration has decided to grate against the values that Big City Mountaineers holds dear. For us, that means imbuing new constituencies with a love of the outdoors, fostering meaningful dialogue amongst diverse communities, building bridges, and welcoming all into the outdoors. Unfortunately, this administration has chosen a colder, more cynical, and short-sighted path by decimating these monuments and opening them up for exploitation by special interests.” Audrey Peterman, President of Diverse Environmental Leaders, questioned “…what ‘protection’ means when we can go through the rigorous process of getting lands conserved on behalf of this and future generations, and then those ‘protections’ can be undone by an administration that is so clearly focused on exploitation. If more Americans knew what is happening, I believe they would resist it for the sake of their children and their descendants yet to come.”
Eliminating protections for places where people from across this nation see their history, heritage, and culture reflected or see them included in our broader American History is a monumental mistake. Creation Justice Ministries Executive Director Shantha Ready Alonso said of the decision, “President Trump’s actions show great disrespect for our nation’s heritage and for tribes. Although President Trump’s actions cause our communities deep grief, we will continue to do all we can to stand with Indigenous peoples, as well as to protect, restore, and more rightly share God’s creation.”
“Our national monuments, marine protected areas, and public lands are the storytellers of the shared histories and the diverse communities that make this country great… Conserving our natural, cultural, historical, and spiritual heritage through our public lands and waters system is a core value of our country, one that brings all people together. The protection of our national monuments in their current status is critical to not only telling a more complete story of America, but ensuring that future generations can learn and enjoy these places as well.”
-Next 100 Coalition