In a move that delighted a handful of greedy conservatives backed by the Koch brothers and their endless dark money, Donald Trump caused widespread outrage yesterday when he flew to Utah to announce a massive rollback of federally protected land at Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante. It is the "largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history."
The administration shrank Bears Ears National Monument, a sprawling region of red rock canyons, by 85 percent, and cut another monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, to about half its current size. The move, a reversal of protections put in place by Democratic predecessors, comes as the administration pushes for fewer restrictions and more development on public lands.
The decision to reduce Bears Ears is expected to set off a legal battle that could alter the course of American land conservation, putting dozens of other monuments at risk and possibly opening millions of preserved public acres to oil and gas extraction, mining, logging and other commercial activities.
This is a mega-giveaway to the handful of billionaires who stand to gain from logging, mining, and otherwise destroying our protected federal lands. And this is just the beginning, as conservatives like the Koch brothers have been targeting our federal lands for their personal gain for years. And the Republican party appears happy to turn over our lands to the hands of a greedy few. Outdoor gear maker Patagonia isn’t taking this lying down. Committed to protecting federal lands, they announced they will sue the Trump administration. From CNN:
"I'm going to sue him," says Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of outdoor gear maker Patagonia. "It seems the only thing this administration understands is lawsuits. I think it's a shame that only 4% of American lands are national parks. Costa Rica's got 10%. Chile will now have way more parks than we have. We need more, not less. This government is evil and I'm not going to sit back and let evil win."Chouinard led the effort to move a major outdoor show from Salt Lake City to Denver in protest of Utah's land use politics and he's been a big supporter of the historic coalition of the five local tribes, which put aside ancient rivalries and lobbied for monument protection.Outdoor retailer Patagonia also lent its voice in opposition to the move Monday, setting the home page of Patagonia.com to a blacked-out page that says, "The President Stole Your Land," with the option to learn more about "the largest elimination of protected land in American history."
Thank you, Patagonia and thank you, Yvon Chouinard!
On another note, Trump claims he rolled back these federal protections in the names of states’ rights. But how do those around Bears Ears feel about the move? Here is local resident Bob Poulton, a rancher, mulepacker, and retired peace officer. In an interview with Nate Schweber of the New York Times, Poulton chokes up, breaking into tears as he talks about Donald Trump’s decision to take away federal protections for the land around his home.
Schweber shared several poignant interviews with the people affected by the decision. Virgil Homer is a local guide who said he was initially upset at the designation of Grand Staircase Escalante as a national monument, but has come to appreciate the designation because he wants the land to be preserved for the people, especially future generations of his own family.
At 87 years old, cowboy poet Sam Jackson says he is glad the lands are, or were, protected. He did not think it was advisable to turn them over to special interests.
Statement from Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario.
"Americans have overwhelmingly spoken out against the Trump Administration's unprecedented attempt to shut down our national monuments," said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario in a statement. "We've fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we'll continue that fight in the courts."
And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose every move since taking office has been to turn over federal lands to wealthy benefactors and gun enthusiasts, fires back. Ironically enough, this rollback of federal protections for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments have been on the Koch brothers wish list. This rollback is part of the scam to please uber wealthy Big Oil and Big Gas conservatives, and get them to fund Republicans in 2018 midterm elections.