Bears Ears National Monument is located in San Juan County, Utah. The 1.35 million-acre protected area contains a wide array of historic, cultural and natural resources, and is prized by many tribal leaders but opposed by several state and federal Republican officials. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, located in southern Utah and declared at the height of the 1996 presidential election campaign, was controversial from the beginning, many local officials arguing that such vast amounts of land should not be designated.
Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said on Friday, October 27, that he was informed by President Trump that he had approved recommendations by Ryan Zinke to reduce the size of Bear Ears National Monument, which was established by former President Barrack Obama, and Grand Staircase-Escalante, which was designated by former president Bill Clinton. Following an executive order Mr. Trump signed back in April requiring a review of 24 sites across the U.S., the Interior Department made recommendations which include changes to some of the national monuments.
“I was incredibly grateful the President called this morning to let us know that he is approving Secretary Zinke’s recommendation on Bears Ears,” Hatch said. “We believe in the importance of protecting these sacred antiquities, but Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration rolled up their sleeves to dig in, talk to locals, talk to local tribes, and find a better way to do it. We’ll continue to work closely with them moving forward to ensure Utahns have a voice.”
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said referring to Bear Ears that “It is a disgrace that the President wants to undo the nation’s first national monument created to honor Native American cultural heritage. And a travesty that he’s trying to unravel a century’s worth of conservation history, all behind closed doors,”
Branch, who’s Navajo, says Bears Ears has a special importance for one of America’s largest tribes. “It’s the birthplace of our most prominent leaders. Our people have a close connection to the land. There are plants and minerals we utilize on a regular basis that we harvest from the site. It’s a unique repository for our tribal members,”