Mitsch Bush: Trump’s decision to decimate Bears Ears hurts Colorado (column)
Editor’s note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.
On Monday, Dec. 4, President Donald Trump announced his decision to decimate two national monuments in Utah: Grand Staircase-Escalante, protected by President Bill Clinton, and Bears Ears, protected by President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act.
In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt championed and implemented the Antiquities Act because he believed it was a national priority to protect the heritage of the many Tribal Nations who had settled the American West over past millennia and the spectacular, wide-open lands in perpetuity for all Americans, not just for those in San Juan County, Utah, or any other county or particular state in the union. By 1911, there had been many documented instances of destruction of those lands and of looting and stealing of artifacts.
By ripping protections from more than 2 million acres of public lands, Trump insulted the legacy and traditions of all the nations who are now suing the government: Navaho, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian and Pueblo of Zuni.
This president follows in the dishonorable tradition of so-called U.S. leaders breaking treaties and promises. He refused to even meet with the tribal leaders when they repeatedly requested that he meet. When President Obama designated the 1.35 million intact acres, he and officials in his administration met repeatedly with tribal leaders, environmental groups and Western businesses.
“The Navajo Nation has made repeated requests to meet with President Trump on this issue. The Bears Ears Monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation but to many tribes in the region,” Navajo President Russell Begaye said in a Monday statement shortly after Trump signed proclamations.
“Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington,” Trump said, speaking at Utah’s State Capitol beneath a painting of Mormon pioneers. “And guess what? They’re wrong.”
“Together,” he continued, “we will usher in a bright new future of wonder and wealth.”
Wonder and wealth for whom? Will this decision decimate the spectacular night skies? The awesome stillness of this area? Those are a true wonder, not the industrial uses that will likely occur.
This decision will destroy our national heritage, including up to 100,000 sites of irreplaceable archaeological significance. The remaining land is 15 percent of what was originally set aside. It is in two tiny fragments at either corner of the original monument.
When casting this as a decision to help local economies, the president seems blissfully unaware of the importance of our outdoor industries to a vital economy in the West. Here is what the Outdoor Industry association had to say: “This action ignores millions of Americans and hundreds of businesses who have communicated to his administration that this decision hurts local communities, harms local jobs, threatens Utah’s $12.3 billion outdoor recreation economy and undermines our American heritage.”
This decision is bad for our heritage, breaks promises and treaties, has the potential to hurt our economy in the West and leaves more than 2 million pristine acres ripe for destruction by the highest bidder.
Diane Mitsch Bush, of Steamboat Springs, is a former Colorado State House Representative in House District 26 and current candidate for Congress in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. Reach her at dianeforcolorado.com.