One year after Trump’s decimation of Utah monuments, more than 500,000 comments reveal a country still active in fight for U.S. public lands
BLUFF, UTAH – Organizations in Utah announced Tuesday that Americans across the country submitted more than 500,000 comments on the future of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.
This outsized response carries a clear message that rings as true today as it did one year ago, when President Trump illegally eliminated more than 2 million acres from these two Monuments. The groundswell of support shows that Americans from coast to coast are as fired up now as they were on Day 1 about the loss of protection for these cultural, historic and scientific treasures.
The flood of feedback was submitted during the Interior Department comment periods that closed on November 15th (Bears Ears) and November 30th (Grand Staircase). Americans decried the Administration’s rushed management plans for these downsized national monuments, plans that will determine the future of the Indian Creek and Shash Jaa’ units of Bears Ears National Monument; the Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons units of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument; and lands excised from Grand Staircase-Escalante in the Kanab-Escalante Planning Area.
Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears are both world-renowned hotbeds of paleontological research, world-class destinations for outdoor recreation, and major economic drivers for small businesses in the region. Bears Ears has been home to Hopi, Diné, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni peoples for hundreds of years, protecting countless archaeological, cultural, and natural resources.
The following are statements in response to this nationwide groundswell of support, and the Administration’s rushed and reckless planning process:
“These hasty plans represent an abrupt and drastic reversal of 22 years of conservation management. They do not represent thoughtful, responsible stewardship, but rather a pillaging of our national resources. This effort represents a tremendous waste of precious taxpayer dollars that could have been applied to the real needs of our public lands: law enforcement, scientific study, interpretation and visitor services.” — Nicole Croft, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners
“The number of public comments submitted to the BLM and Forest Service indicate strong support for national monuments and public lands across the United States. The people have spoken and we all want Bears Ears protections restored.”
— Mark Maryboy, Utah Diné Bikéyah
“Bears Ears is an exceedingly fragile and culturally rich area, which is seeing dramatically increased visitation. Bears Ears cannot afford to be managed as a ‘monument in name only’ due to a rushed planning process that prioritizes the status quo over conservation. We were heartened to see hundreds of thousands of people from around the U.S. speak up for real, lasting protections for this internationally significant cultural landscape.” — Josh Ewing, Executive Director, Friends of Cedar Mesa
“The monument is essential for protecting priceless objects that are part of our national heritage — fossils, archaeology, landscapes, and wildlife. In the year since Trump announced reductions to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the data and identification of fossil finds keep pouring out. This kind of research will be impossible if we don’t keep the monument boundaries intact.” – David Polly, Immediate Past President, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
“Official records show that there are 8,480 known archaeological sites in Bears Ears—where only 10 percent of the area has been inventoried by professionals. And now, 73 percent of those sites are left out of the protected area. That’s not a downsizing—that’s a revocation. It’s unconscionable, and it’s the direct opposite of what the tribes and a majority of citizens desire. There is broad support for tribal communities and their deep connections to these natural and cultural landscapes.” – William Doelle, President and CEO, Archaeology Southwest