[Marxism] These southern Utah sites were once off-limits to development. Now, Trump will auction the right to drill and graze there.

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 6 12:26:50 MST 2020


Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2020
These southern Utah sites were once off-limits to development. Now, 
Trump will auction the right to drill and graze there.
By Sarah Kaplan and Juliet Eilperin

The Interior Department finalized plans Thursday that will permit 
drilling, mining and grazing in areas of southern Utah that had once 
been protected as two national monuments, sparking an outcry from tribal 
groups and conservationists.

The decision comes more than two years after Trump dramatically cut the 
size of the monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, and is 
likely to intensify a legal fight over the contested sites.

The expanses of wind-swept badlands, narrow slot canyons and towering 
rock formations are sacred to several Native American nations and prized 
by scientists and outdoor enthusiasts. Bears Ears contains tens of 
thousands of cultural artifacts and rare rock art. In the rock layers of 
Grand Staircase, researchers have unearthed 75 million-year-old dinosaur 
fossils.

But the lands also harbor significant amounts of oil, gas and coal the 
administration hopes to develop, as well as grazing land valued by local 
ranchers. Under the plan that went into effect Thursday, those areas are 
open to new mining claims and other kinds of development.

Officials from the Interior Department and U.S. Forest Service who 
manage the lands have said the new plans balance the region’s economic 
interests against the need to safeguard natural and cultural wonders. 
Casey Hammond, the Interior Department’s acting assistant secretary for 
land and minerals management, noted that the areas excluded from 
monuments are still protected by federal environmental laws.

“We are advancing our goal to restore trust and be a good neighbor,” 
Hammond said Thursday.

The decision to overhaul what activities are permitted on large swaths 
of federal land in southern Utah comes as the Bureau of Land Management 
is eyeing much bigger changes to how it manages 245 million acres of 
public land across the country and the minerals buried underneath them.

In a letter obtained last month by The Washington Post, the BLM’s top 
Alaska official informed tribes that the agency is considering revamping 
how it writes its resource management plans to make it easier to log and 
extract energy from lands it oversees. The proposal aims to streamline 
environmental reviews, Chad Padgett wrote, to save taxpayer money and be 
more responsive to local needs.

Trump shrank this national monument to spur a mining boom. But will 
those lost protections yield real profits?

The 1906 Antiquities Act empowers a president to protect public lands of 
archaeological significance. President Bill Clinton first designated 
Grand Staircase-Escalante a national monument in 1996. President Barack 
Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument 20 years later.

Since the Interior Department redrew the monuments’ boundaries, Grand 
Staircase is half its former size and Bears Ears has shrunk by 85 percent.

A coalition of groups sued the administration immediately after 
President Trump announced the new boundaries. They argue that the act 
does not give a president the authority to revoke their predecessors’ 
national monument designations.

The Justice Department last year sought to have the two lawsuits 
dismissed, but a federal judge denied the motions and the cases are pending.

Several plaintiffs roundly criticized the administration for moving 
forward with management plans while the cases were still in court. But 
Hammond said Thursday that the Interior Department would not delay its 
decision to match a slow-moving legal process.

“If we stopped and waited for every piece of litigation to be resolved, 
we would never be able to do much of anything around here,” he said.

In developing the plan for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase, Hammond said, 
the BLM consulted with Native American tribes and considered thousands 
of public comments.

But representatives from Utah Dine Bikeyah, a non-profit that led tribal 
efforts to secure protection for Bears Ears and is a lead plaintiff on 
the monuments lawsuits, called BLM’s outreach to tribes “insufficient.”

“We still have no idea why they removed protection from so many cultural 
resources,” said Gavin Noyes, the group’s executive director.

“The Trump administration ... built their plans on an unlawful 
foundation,” said Heidi McIntosh, managing attorney of the Rocky 
Mountain office of the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice. Her 
group is also party to the monuments lawsuit.

“This headlong spree to open up monument lands to extractive industries 
and development is illegitimate, and could only be done by turning a 
blind eye to the law and flat out ignoring the Native American tribes 
for whom Bears Ears is sacred," McIntosh said.

But ranchers, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s 
Kaitlynn Glover, called the decision “welcome news for local communities 
and rural economies."

Glover, the association’s executive director for natural resources, said 
the 1906 Antiquities Act "has been abused to lock up millions of acres” 
that could be grazed and used for other activities.

The changes to the monuments have also won praise from officials in 
Utah, including Sens. Mitt Romney (R) and Mike Lee (R) and Gov. Gary R. 
Herbert (R).

“Monuments should be as small as possible to protect artifacts and 
cultural resources,” Herbert said in a statement Thursday. “And they 
should not be created over the objections of local communities.”

Tribes and environmental groups argue the plans will make way for 
destruction of sensitive cultural areas and vital natural landscapes. 
They worry Thursday’s decision to open public access to the lands will 
allow for increased road development and off-road-vehicle use that will 
affect artifacts and ecosystems, while grazing and logging will alter 
the habitats of many important species.

Conservationists are particularly concerned about chaining, a process in 
which bulldozers drag long chains across terrain to uproot plants and trees.

“These plans represents the lowest common denominator for BLM 
stewardship,” Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah 
Wilderness Alliance, one of the plaintiffs in the monuments lawsuits, 
said in a statement. “One of the wildest landscapes in the lower 
forty-eight states will be lost if these plans are carried into action 
over the next few years."



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