Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Thousands gathered outside the Utah Capitol on Monday to protest President Donald Trump and his plan to shrink two of the state's national monuments. (Photo: @danransomphoto/Twitter)

Ignoring Local Tribes and Public Outcry, Trump Carves Up National Monuments for Mining and Drilling

The president announced in Utah that Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante will be reduced in size in the interest of corporate polluters, despite 2.8 million Americans' demands that he protect the land

Julia Conley

Indigenous rights groups and environmental advocates were among thousands of people who gathered in Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday to greet President Donald Trump with a demonstration against his decision to shrink two of the state's national monuments, opening the land to oil and gas companies which hope to mine the natural resources there.

With Trump's announcement, Bears Ears National Monument will be reduced by about 85 percent while Grand Staircase-Escalante will become about 46 percent smaller.

"He is completely disregarding the will of the people and selling off the land to the highest bidder for fossil fuel interests," Suzanne Attix, a Utah resident, told the Salt Lake Tribune on Monday.

"It's an insult to native people who hold this land sacred and out of step with the vast majority of Americans who want these monuments protected."—Valerie Love

The public outcry against the Trump administration's expected plans to reduce the monuments has gone on for months, with 2.8 million Americans leaving comments at the Interior Department's website urging officials to protect the land.

"There's a powerful, unified national uprising to defend our public lands," said Valerie Love, deputy organizing director for Ignite Change, a grassroots network affiliated with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Trump and corporate polluters need to keep their hands off our public lands. These are irreplaceable natural and cultural treasures. They belong to everyone."

President Barack Obama's decision to name Bears Ears, a 1.3 million acre spread of land in southern Utah, a national monument in December 2016 gave protection to a region that had been inhabited by five Native American tribes. The Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and two Ute tribes lobbied for federal protection of the land for years before Obama's announcement.

In Trump's speech on Monday, he said his decision to shrink the monuments was made in the interest of giving the land back to the people of Utah.

"It's an insult to native people who hold this land sacred and out of step with the vast majority of Americans who want these monuments protected," said Love.

In addition to dismissing the concerns of Indigenous people whose ancestors have lived on the land for hundreds if not thousands of years, the reasoning the president offered for shrinking the monuments left out the fossil fuel industry and other commercial interests that are expected to take advantage of the land now that its open to their use. There are nearly two dozen federal oil and gas leases in Bears Ears National Monument which companies will now be able to use for drilling.

Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell wrote in the Guardian that the attack on the public lands has economic implications as well as environmental ones. "President Trump's action will amount to the largest rollback of protections for public lands and waters in U.S. history. It will ignore the 2.8 million Americans who have spoken out in defense of these public lands, and will undercut the jobs and revenues they bring to local economies from outdoor recreation and tourism."

Defenders of Wildlife vowed to sue the Trump administration in response to the president's announcement.

"This is a shameful and illegal attack on our nation's protected lands," said Jamie Rappoport Clark, the group's president. "National monuments are designated for their scientific, cultural, and conservation value—because they are too important to damage and degrade. Teddy Roosevelt is rolling in his grave...We'll be seeing President Trump in court."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Senators Set to Leave Town for 10-Day Recess Without Action on Gun Violence Crisis

"How many more children, mothers, and fathers need to be murdered in cold blood before the Senate has the guts to ban assault weapons and take on the NRA?" asked Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Jake Johnson ·


Scientists to BlackRock Vice Chairman: New Fossil Fuel Development 'Incompatible' With 1.5°C

"The only responsible course of action is to do everything in our power to stop fossil fuel expansion and further emissions."

Jessica Corbett ·


Goldman Prize Awarded to Activists Who Showed Nature's 'Amazing Capability to Regenerate'

"While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity."

Julia Conley ·


Faith Leaders Call for Federal Election Monitors in Georgia to Protect Black Voters

"It is imperative that our election this November is monitored to preserve ballot integrity and ensure ballot security."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Inaction Is Bought': Here Are the Receipts on NRA's Purchase of GOP

"The issue is money in politics," said Nina Turner after the nation's latest mass killing of students and teachers. Right-wing lawmakers are "allowing children to die because of the gun lobby."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo