This Week in Bears Ears News: Nov. 12-18
Our Inboxes runneth over with headlines about the latest developments in the fight for the future of Bears Ears National Monument. Below is a sampling of stories from the past week that will get you up to speed:
(NOTE: new to the Bears Ears saga? Start here.)
Ever since last August, when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's leaked memo to the White House made the case for reducing Bears Ears National Monument, Native American tribes and environmental organizations have been girding themselves for an announcement from the Trump administration about a change to the Bears Ears boundaries. Their worst fears were realized earlier this week when a staffer for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) revealed Trump's plan to cut Bears Ears by as much as 90 percent. What's more, Trump himself may well fly to Utah to make the announcement. We will continue to follow the buildup to the Trump trip as the White House releases more details about Trump's plans.
Meanwhile, in south central Utah, the state's second-most controversial national monument may meet a similar fate, albeit with a slightly less dramatic reduction in acreage. The above article explains more about why "the Grand Staircase" is so beloved by some Utahns and despised by others, and what the boundary changes could portend for long-dormant plans to mine coal in the region.
There was much consternation and celebration by monument supporters and opponents when the aforementioned Zinke memo was leaked in August. The document presented an extremely broad series of recommendations for national monuments - keep them as is or reduce them significantly - but was short on details and did not contain any information about whether a president can legally reduce or rescind a monument. What's more, despite a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by numerous conservation groups, the Interior Department has refused to turn over documents that outlined the administration's plans in more detail. Lawsuits ensued. Read more at the above link.
From the story above: "During this week’s Rock Your Mocs, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proudly showed his support for the worldwide Native American and indigenous peoples cultural celebration, sporting a pair of beaded moccasins over star-spangled socks. But Native American tribes in the West remain upset over a larger Indian symbol that the secretary plans to rock to its foundation: the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah."
One of the foremost reasons the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition seeks to protect the land now known as Bears Ears National Monument is because of its deep spiritual significance to the region's Native American peoples. (Read more about Native spirituality and cosmology here.) Last weekend, a group of Native spiritual leaders gathered with other religious leaders in Albuquerque, New Mexico and made a pilgrimage to Bears Ears. The story above explains the impetus behind the visit and the potential for greater interfaith understanding and healing.