Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee
Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and other leading Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee today questioned the untimely release of the Department of the Interior’s update to the Bears Ears National Monument Management Plan (MMP), which comes in the wake of President Trump’s illegal decision to reduce the Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent. Trump’s reduction of Bears Ears and the illegal reductions made to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are still being challenged in federal court.
The new Bears Ears National Monument Management Plan was formulated with input from the newly appointed and reconstituted Monument Advisory Council (MAC), which is composed entirely of outspoken critics of the original monument and was formulated without government-to-government consultation with sovereign tribal nations. The MAC, established in April 2019, received pushback from tribal leaders shut out of the decision-making process.
“This management plan is a cynical attempt to support President Trump’s illegal move, and publishing it before the judge has ruled smacks of disrespect for the judicial branch,” Grijalva said today. “Trump officials released this just as lawmakers are leaving Washington for the recess, hoping to avoid questions for which they have no answers. If they believed their changes to the monument and the management plan were legal or defensible, they wouldn’t be rushing them through before the courts have weighed in on the legality of the president’s decisions – and they would send us the explanatory documents we asked for months ago. This plan relies on the advice of a rigged panel of monument opponents. It will waste a mountain of taxpayer dollars. Fortunately, I’m confident that when the courts rule, these illegal actions will be overturned and Bears Ears National Monument will be restored.”
”This proposed management plan confirms what we already knew: the Trump Administration has no interest in protecting the thousands of cultural and archeological sites in Bears Ears Monument or in seriously consulting with tribes on how best to manage their sacred ancestral lands,” said Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. “This plan recklessly weakens protections even for the land that remains in the monument, failing to protect important sites from threats like illegal ATV use, looting, vandalism, and damage from target shooting – which would be permitted within monument boundaries under this plan. As a nation, we have a responsibility to conserve the important cultural and natural history that exists in special places like Bears Ears. The Trump administration monument reduction plan falls pathetically short of that standard.”
“Bears Ears is a treasure that everyone should be able to enjoy and should be protected for future generations who hold it sacred,” said Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM), chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. “However, this administration’s management plan only reinforces its illegal action to steal huge swaths of land from the national monument so that oil and gas and mining companies can exploit the land. It puts sacred sites at risk of being lost forever. It’s blatant disrespect like this that pushed me to introduce the ANTIQUITIES Act so no president can sell off our national monuments to the highest bidder,”
Gallego is the author of the Bears Ears Expansion and Respect for Sovereignty Act. Haaland is an original cosponsor.