Why Trump’s Bears Ears decision worries so many

There are now five lawsuits contesting the president’s monument reductions, including two led by tribes.

 

Indian Country News is a weekly note from NewTowncarShare News, as we continue to broaden our coverage of tribal affairs across the West.

While the legality of the move is still being debated, both in the courtroom and the court of public opinion, the implications of President Donald Trump’s decision to reduce Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent is being felt in Indian Country.

For centuries, the 1.35 million-acre lands that cover much of southern Utah were home to several tribes. To those communities, the land not only represents an important part of their cultures and histories, it holds countless artifacts and archaeological objects that could be damaged or destroyed should that land be opened up to more travel, less regulation and greater mineral exploration. As we saw this week, minerals likely played a role in the decision to reduce Bears Ears, . 

There are now five different lawsuits filed against Trump’s decision to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, including two led by tribes or tribal groups, demonstrating a wide swath of parties . One suit, filed by the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Indian, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni tribes, seeks an injunction to Trump’s proclamation and to prohibit its enforcement. Another, filed by the Utah Diné Bikéyah, the Patagonia clothing company, and other advocacy groups, seeks a court order to restore the monument to boundaries set out by the Obama administration, claiming Trump’s reduction would threaten historical artifacts, kivas and pueblos.

Ruins at Cedar Mesa, inside Bears Ears National Monument

Destruction of such objects isn’t the only worry tribes have. The Bears Ears Coalition, made up of the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute and Uintah and Ouray Ute nations, successfully negotiated with the Obama administration for a powerful seat at the table when deciding the boundaries of the monument. Their hope, in part, was to stop the development of roads and pipelines that come with mineral extraction and cut through villages and sacred lands.  

Those kinds of developments can fragment more than the landscape. “Most of our pueblos are still transmitting their migration history through oral means,” Theresa Pasqual, former director of Acoma Pueblo’s Historic Preservation Office, told NewTowncarShare News recently. “So when you have development that begins to impact many of these sites they are literally destroying the pages of the history book of the Pueblo people.”

The monument designation also gives federal land managers more leverage to limit visitation, which can keep motorized and non-motorized recreation away from sensitive sites. San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, who helped organize a 2014 protest in which armed ATV riders sped over ancient Puebloan villages, stood next to Trump as the president announced the reduction, providing a clear signal of the administration’s priorities.

In the coming weeks NewTowncarShare News will continue to dissect the legal implications of Trump’s decision, as well as its impact on Indigenous communities that called the area home long before the United States was even an idea.

Graham Lee Brewer is a contributing editor at NewTowncarShare News and a member of the Cherokee Nation.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • 541-987-2363, [email protected] www.dukewarnerrealtyofeasternoregon.com
  • Eagle County, Colorado (population 53,000) is seeking a dynamic, innovative, and collaborative leader to serve as its Community Development Director. This beautiful Colorado Mountain County...
  • The Operations Manager is a full-time permanent position with Friends of the Inyo, a non-profit dedicated to protecting and restoring the public lands of California's...
  • Elizabeth Venable, MA, MPA, grant writer, is an ecologist with experience writing for environmental, social justice, and arts organizations. She has raised $850,000 in grants...
  • WLN is hiring a full-time organizer to lead our work in Indian Country.
  • Reporting to the Board of Directors (Board), the Executive Director (ED) has overall operational responsibility for FoGB staff, programs, expansion, and execution of the mission....
  • Friends of the Inyo seeks a California Desert Lands Protection Fellow to assist with an effective campaign to defend lands in the California desert, including...
  • Join the Center for Conservation Peacebuilding for a workshop to build your capacity to transform conflicts and create lasting solutions for people and wildlife. April...
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • Trout Unlimited in New Mexico is seeking a coordinator to work on campaigns and projects that conserve quality fish and wildlife habitats. This position is...
  • The American Forest Foundation (AFF) seeks a smart and highly motivated candidate to join their Western conservation team. The California Conservation Manager supports the Director,...
  • Nov 7-8 in Grand Junction, CO Keynote: Brad Udall on Climate Change Other Topics: Threats to Food Energy Water Security From Forecasting to Decision-Making Science...
  • For more information on RE Sources and a full job description: visit our website:
  • with home on one acre in Pocatello, ID. For information and photos visit www.blackrockforgeproperty.com.
  • Skiing, biking, hiking, fishing, 3 bd/2 bth, deck. 1.38 acres, no covenants. Call Reggie Masters, Associate Broker Coldwell Banker Bighorn Realty, 970-596-3568.
  • Here is an opportunity to have a piece of self-sufficient paradise on Idaho's Main Salmon River adjacent to the largest Forest Service wilderness area in...
  • Help protect Montanas water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • potential fruit/hay with house, Hotchkiss, CO, Scott Ellis, 970-420-0472, [email protected]
  • The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) seeks a director to lead a nationwide program focused on the protection of U.S. national parks from energy development...
  • Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.