This past Saturday, thousands of protesters gathered in Salt Lake City to stand against President Trump’s expected announcement to shrink two national monuments in Utah. Holding signs and chanting, crowds congregated on the front steps of the Utah State Capitol to criticize Trump’s decision.
Speakers included Utah State Representative, Patrice Arent, a Democrat from Millcreek who accused Trump of introducing “destruction on a land he knows basically nothing about.” Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch expressed her frustration, as she said, “I want him to visit Bears Ears before he takes any action!”
On Monday, Mr. Trump visited the Capitol, where he announced his plan to reduce the sizes by two-thirds of Bears Ears and Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. His plan would be their first act by a president in half of a century, leading environmentalists and tribal leaders to accuse this decision as being illegal and a disrespect to Native Americans.
“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,” said founder and CEO of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard.
Supporters claim this monument scaling decision would provide opportunities for potential drilling or mining that could create jobs. This three-million-acre federal land is viewed as a profitable land lease for drillers, miners and frackers.
In response to Patagonia, San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman stated: “You got Patagonia in here waving the flag of environmentalism while he’s completely exploiting the outdoors of industrialized tourism. For a person in that position to try and lecture morality to one of the poorest counties in the entire nation is wrong.” Lyman argued that oil extraction would have less impact on the land than the brand of adventure tourism that has transformed nearby Moab.
In the San Juan county, culture sensitivity is almost nonexistent. Navajo elder Mark Maryboy explained that the Native American groups need job opportunities and the extraction industry could provide this. Unfortunately, these projects tend to portray discrimination, limiting options for Native Americans. In the past, Native Americans have always been the last to be hired for any position no matter the size of the mining operation. And instead, they are left with the toxic chemical exposure left on the ground or in the air.s