President Trump Starts a Conservation War

"REI urges protest on social media -- encouraging supporters to change their social profile pictures to We Our Public Lands and use the hashtag #unitedoutside." (Photo: Screenshot/REI Website)

President Trump Starts a Conservation War

Retailers like Patagonia and REI are joining advocacy groups to battle for Bears Ears.

Yesterday we reported on a move by President Trump that many predict will change the course of conservation and preservation in the United States, perhaps forever.

The president announced that "he would dramatically reduce the size of a vast expanse of protected federal land in Utah on Monday, a rollback of some 2 million acres that is the largest in scale in the nation's history." This unprecedented rollback of Obama- and Clinton-era designations was much greater than anyone, including Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, had predicted earlier this year. Trump's plan would reduce the Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and the Grand Staircase-Escalante by half.

The outdoor community is not taking the president's move lying down. Outdoor gear supplier and conservationist business Patagonia turned its homepage black -- broken only by the stark statement:

Message on the Patagonia homepage on Dec. 5, 2017.

Visitors to the site are encouraged to learn more and to take action. In addition to their own easy interface for registering outrage, Patagonia points users to a number of partner groups, endorses the hashtag #MonumentalMistake and helps stock the fire with factual tidbits like:

It is a Myth that More Public Lands are Needed for Oil and Gas Development
90 percent of US public lands are open to oil and gas leasing and development; only 10 percent are protected for recreation, conservation and wildlife. [The Wilderness Society, 2017]

States Have Historically Sold Off Federal Lands
History shows that when the federal government grants, sells or otherwise gifts federal land to states, 70 percent of the land is sold to private interests, jeopardizing public access. [Field and Stream, April 2017]

At REI's website the statement was equally forthright: "We Love Our Public Lands." The Seattle-based company has an interesting backstory. "What began as a group of 23 mountain climbing buddies is now the nation's largest consumer cooperative." REI urges protest on social media -- encouraging supporters to change their social profile pictures to We Our Public Lands and use the hashtag #unitedoutside.

The National Parks and Conservation Association is probably the best known advocacy group for the system. NPCA categorically states that the president has no authority to cut any national monument, calling it "outrageous and unacceptable," and urges people to use their influence with Congress as a means of protest. The site has an easy-to-use form letter that you can just sign and send:

I am extremely disappointed by President Trump's attempt to change the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. Not only is his action illegal, it blatantly disregards the millions of comments submitted in support of our national monuments.

Undoing protections for these two important places would be a betrayal to the American people and the land and history we've spent generations safeguarding. As my representative in Congress, I urge you to speak out against these reductions and any future administrative attacks on our national monuments. And please oppose any congressional actions that try to implement the president's recommendations.

Or you can write your own., a group founded to protect the environment in the courts, has filed a lawsuit against President Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Bureau of Land Management Director Brian Steed.

Earthjustice is representing eight organizations in a suit charging that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act by stripping monument protections from this national treasure: The Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit and represented by in-house counsel.

In their filing, they argue that a president can only create, not destroy, a national monument. "While past presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect unique lands and cultural sites in America, Trump is instead mangling the law, opening this national monument to coal mining instead of protecting its scientific, historic and wild heritage," said Earthjustice's attorney Heidi McIntosh.

Another court challenge comes from a coalition of five local tribes -- the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Ute Indian. Ethel Branch, the attorney general for the Navajo Nation, said their legal challenge is about "'ensuring our tribal members have access to those lands' that hold spiritual significance. Members of the intertribal coalition collect plants and water from the Bears Ears region for cultural and medicinal ceremonies. They regard any action against the monument as a rejection of their heritage and their 'ties with Mother Earth.'"

The National Park Service website has remained quiet on the matter. But the image above reflects the sentiments of the Department of Interior and the Trump administration quite clearly.

There are numerous other groups that will help you make your voice heard:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.