Monday, December 04, 2017

Trump to Shrink Monument

Playing off his tax gift triumph in the Senate, Trump will announce that he will shrink the newly designated Bears Ear National Monument by as much as 90%.  The Monument is the result of over ten years of efforts by a coalition of environmentalists to protect landscapes held sacred by Native Americans.  The move will certainly trigger lawsuits by tribes, such as the Navajo Nation, who were instrumental in its creation.  The suits will bring before conservative justices the entire concept of natural preservation in America, the Beautiful.  The battle may result in millions of protected land being opened up to development, a prospect that excites commercial exploiters of all sorts.  Trump ordered his sycophant at Interior, Ryan Zinke, to review 27 monuments designated since 1996, since he considered the designations to be "egregious use of government power".  Zinke recommended that the boundaries of some the monuments be changed since it is not clear that the President has the authority to withdraw designations completely. {24.08.27}

Bears Ears connects the Navajo Nation to Canyonlands National Park
The issue of designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906 touches upon a sensitive intersection of intergovernmental relations.  The Act limits designations to the "smallest area possible" to protect desired features the law is meant to protect.  Conservatives still think in terms of limited federal authority enshrined in the 10th Amendment and colloquially termed "states' rights".  They see the monument designations as a unlawful federal land grab, closing commercially valuable land to development.  The federal government, on behalf of all the people, controls two-thirds of the land in Utah.  Utah receives anlarge sum of federal subsidies as a result of this ownership.  Currently new mineral exploration is prohibited within Bears Ears, but cattle grazing is still allowed.

Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation, told reporters that the United States government had already taken “millions of acres of my people’s land.”
“We have suffered enough,” he said.  Protestors stood at the Utah state capitol with signs, saying "Keep your tiny hands off our Monument"  Too bad Trump's ego is not as small as his hands. Trump is expected to make the reduction announcement this week when he visits Utah.  He is also expected to cut the size of Staircase-Escalante NM by 50%.  Trump is not the first president to reduce the size of a monument.  President Wilson cut Olympic National Monument, and President Roosevelt reduced the size of Grand Canyon National Monument.  Both are now national parks.