President Trump cuts Bears Ears by more 85 percent
For the second time in less than a year, a presidential signature has made significant changes to San Juan County. On December 4, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order that changed Bears Ears National Monument and created two additional, separate national monuments in San Juan County.
The action cut the amount of land from the Bears Ears National Monuments by more than 85 percent, from 1.35 million acres to 201,876 acres. Instead of a single massive Bears Ears monument, there is now a 130,000-acre Shash Jaa National Monument and a 72,000-acre Indian Creek National Monument.
In addition, Trump withdrew more than 850,000 acres of land from the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in neighboring Kane and Garfield counties.
The President signed the documents at the Utah State Capital Building as part of a whirlwind trip to Utah. He arrived in Air Force at 11 a.m. and was gone in less than two and a half hours.
During that time, he met with leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at Welfare Square and addressed about 1,000 supporters in the rotunda of the state capital building.
Speakers at the event included Trump, Senator Orrin Hatch, Governor Gary Herbert, and San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally. The text of Commissioner Benally’s speech can be found on page 4.
Bears Ears National Monument was designated by President Barack Obama on December 28, 2016 under the Antiquities Act. The designation culminated several years of effort to resolve public lands issues in San Juan County, including a Congressional attempt to address the issue through the Public Lands Initiative.
A coalition of Native American tribes and environmental groups were instrumental in the creation of the monument.
Trump assumed office soon afterward and quickly directed his new Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, to investigate possible misuse of the Antiquities Act.
Zinke visited the area in May and recommended soon afterwards that adjustments be made to the two monuments.
In the interim, the planning process for the new monument ground to a halt. Nearly one year after the designation, there has been no management infrastructure, no budgets, no increased management effort, and no progress. At the same time, visitation to sites in the monument increased dramatically.
Tribal and environmental organizations are expected to sponsor a host of lawsuits that will be filed in federal courts.