Indigenous Peoples

Trump reduces the size of two national monuments. By hundreds of thousands of hectares

President Trump announced unprecedented steps to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments in Utah. It’s the largest reduction of protected areas in US history.

When it comes to environment protection US President’s political line is by now rather clear. After all, for a climate change denier and a person who decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord, the conservation of nature is most likely the least of his concerns. In fact, Donald Trump has decided to reduce the area of two national monuments in Utah by 8,000 square kilometres, putting at risk the environment, wildlife and local communities.

A record move

Never before has a President of the United States reduced the size of a protected area by such large margins. The two national monuments involved are the Bears Ears, which was established last year by former President Barack Obama to “protect this cultural legacy and ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes”, and the Grand Staircase. National monuments are protected areas that can be established by the President without approval by the Congress. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase have been reduced by about 85 and 50 per cent respectively.

Trump reduces the size of two national monuments by hundreds of thousands of hectares
Trump reduces the size of two national monuments by hundreds of thousands of hectares

Fewer parks, more mines

What is Trump’s interest in reducing two national monuments home to breathtaking canyons, rough peaks and ancient archaeological sites with cave paintings? Clearly, the exploitation of resources. The protected area status prevents the establishment of new mines and this is what Republicans don’t like and what Trump has stressed in his speech. “Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong,” Trump said.

Native peoples call for justice

The decision has outraged and disheartened native peoples of Utah who consider Bears Ears a sacred and spiritual land. Five tribes – Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Mount Ute, and Ute – have decided to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration. “This is a sad day for Indigenous people and for America,” said the Vice President of the Navajo Nation, Jonathan Nez. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club are also suing US President.

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