“Together, we will usher in a bright new future of wonder and wealth.”
– Donald Trump, Dec. 4th, 2017
When Trump destroyed Bears Ears and Grand Staircase/Escalante in favor of the ranching and extractive industries with his heart-monitor signature, he became part of a repeating cycle of American history. A history of genocide of native peoples, of the casual taking and destruction of natural resources, and the disrespect for non-european cultural heritage and science.
What he did on Dec. 4th, however, wasn’t legal. If it were, the three bills proposed by Utah’s GOP congresspeople wouldn’t be necessary. HR 4532 and HR 4558 intends to codify and retroactively legalize Trump’s executive order to reduce Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly half. HR 3990 modifies the Antiquities Act to effectively prevent any president from establishing significant national monuments while allowing them to abolish existing monuments with little restriction.
If we all work together, we can stop the three bills that would legitimize this corporate land grab.
Take time this Spring Break week to organize your relatives and friends in red states to inundate their legislators with one simple call to say “NO” three times.If you’re unsure of why this is so important, we’ve compiled some information directly below.
A long slow genocide of Native Americans continues – Uranium and coal mining
This is what probably started it all. A subsidiary of a Canadian firm, Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., is a uranium company already accused of polluting activities. They lobbied the Trump administration to exclude potentially ore-rich areas from the new monument boundaries of Bears Ears. Uranium mines are incredibly toxic, even old abandoned ones, with substantial consequences for water safety, air pollution with uranium dust and human health. The Navajo nation — some 27,000 square miles spread across Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, is home to more than 250,000 people and a number of uranium mines. A generation of Navajo people has died of kidney failure and cancer, conditions linked to uranium contamination. The harms are not just suffered by adults. Even babies born now are affected. Research by the Navajo Birth Cohort Study is studying the effects of chronic, long-term exposure from multiple sources. Oil and gas drilling are also potentially in its future, an industry with a long history of fraudulent behavior on public lands and its own forms of toxicity to nearby residents.
(The next two videos are a little longer than our usual ones. Understanding the true costs of our public policies of environmental racism, takes a little time.)
The new borders for Grand Staircase-Escalante open up large areas of coal deposits, and the potential of coal mining on former monument lands, with the usual side effects of thousands of acres dug up and stripped, waterways polluted with soil and contaminants and wildlife driven away by dust and noise pollution. If new mines are created, the Native peoples living nearby will once again bear the brunt of the needs of far-away populations.
More roads and reckless motorized use
Based on a statute passed in 1866, motorized vehicles will now be allowed on any road that existed prior to the establishment of the monuments–and that may end up being hundreds of roads, including places that don’t look much like roads at all. Tribal artifacts, wildlife and fossils will suffer as a result of this intrusion. The environmental destruction of offroad vehicles has been studied extensively. We cannot no longer pretend that this is a harmless bit of fun by weekend warriors.
Making room for an invasive species – cows.
The newly unprotected land may allow for active “vegetation treatment” in both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. This will likely lead to a range of destructive activities meant to replace native plants with perennial grass cover. One method, “chaining,” (see video below) can suppress tree growth in the area for decades, especially impacting the piñon pine, as well as reducing the biocrust, a thin layer of organism that are essential for maintain a desert ecosystem, increasing wind and water erosion.
This place is a sacred Native American site and our largest outdoor museum.
Work similar to this petroglyph from Butler Wash in Bears Ear, can be found in museums, behind glass, with guards in the rooms. More than 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites, including 1,500-year-old petroglyphs, make Bears Ears a national treasure. However, prior to its designation as a monument, they were threatened by rampant looting and vandalism, including the disturbance of graves. Now, once again, priceless rock art, cliff dwelling and other cultural sites are outside protective boundaries of the monument. A similar situation faces Grand Staircase-Escalante.
Dinosaur fossils will be exposed to destruction, vandalism and research halted.
The reconfiguration leaves out more than 400 of the estimated 3,000 “scientifically important” fossil sites in the full Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, including many potential dinosaur finds and a large section of Triassic petrified forest mentioned in President Bill Clinton’s original proclamation establishing the monument. Although Bears Ears has not been studied as extensively by paleontologists, Trump’s virtual elimination of that monument will strip protected status from a major Triassic bone bed, among other sites. The scientific importance of both these monuments is so important that the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology has joined in legal action against the proposed cuts.
Action Time – three bills – one call!
The bills listed below are currently co-sponsored only by fellow Utah GOP members. However, mutual back-scratching with assure passage unless we make a big enough fuss.
So it’s time to call and/or email our representatives, and more importantly, contact your relatives and friends in GOP districts and have them call their own legislators.
Call, repeat, repeat, repeat. Make a new and more just history every day.
“NO” on HR 4532 – “Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act“
To cover up their bottomless rapaciousness, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah has proposed HR 4532 – “Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act“. This bill ELIMINATES the name “Bears Ears” entirely, “creates” two smaller monuments and officially codifies this theft of national monument land away from Native Americans. Navajo President Russell Begaye, in his testimony before the US. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, stated that the language indicating that the two leftover pieces would be “Tribally Managed”, is deliberately misleading and that the use of “Shash Jaa“, the Navajo word for Bears Ears, is not only insulting, but a cynical cultural appropriation to imply Native American support.
“NO” on H.R. 4558 – “Grand Staircase Escalante Enhancement” Act
“You keep using that word…I do not think it means what you think it means…”
(- Princess Bride)
HR 4558 directs that the Grand Staircase/ Escalante National Monument is to be cut in area by half, and the remains to then be split into three pieces, “Grand Staircase”, “Kaiparowits” and “Escalante Canyons”. If “enhancing” means cutting something to bits, that we need to relabel some other things. If “enhancing” means destroying a popular monument to profit off the pieces, then welcome to the Trump administration.
“NO” on H.R. 3990 – “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” Act
Give credit where it’s due. The GOP is really great at titling bills. Their best efforts imply the exact opposite of their real intentions. Like this one.
HR 3990 “fixes” the Antiquities Act of 1906, which currently allows presidents to declare by public proclamation that historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest situated on federal lands are national monuments.
The bill adds limits to the Act, minimizing size, limiting location based on proximity to other monuments, and requiring review by the Department of the Interior or Agriculture (USDA) under the National Environmental Policy Act, AND by the county and state within whose boundaries it will be located.
Under this bill, making a new monument would be almost impossible. But a pathway for presidents to remove or downsize an existing monument has been conveniently added along with a more restrictive definition of what counts as worth saving. “Historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” would be changed to the much more restrictive “object or objects of antiquity”.
That none of these bills are laws right now, implies that what Trump did was illegal.
Minimal Script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep. [___] to join with Navajo President Russell Begaye in urging Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, to withdraw HR 4532, along with HR 4558, and HR 3990.
More script if you want it: Also ask Mr. Trump to redirect the $30 million dollars he wants to waste on his pompous military parade to aid for the Navajo people, who not only provided our military with their famous code-talkers, but whose communities have been permanently scarred by the mining of uranium ore for atomic weapons.
Contact your Legislator
Rep. Julia Brownley: (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal: (CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Other Rep Contacts: www.phoneyourrep.com