Prior to today’s subcommittee hearing on H.R. 4532, which would establish the two monuments outlined by President Trump when he announced he was gutting the size Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation, released the following statement highlighting why the legislation should be rejected:
“Unfortunately, this hearing underscores the politics involved with protecting – or not protecting – lands in our country, especially those that celebrate our cultural and outdoor heritage.
“Bears Ears National Monument was established after years of local stakeholder input – community roundtables, comment periods, events, visits, joint letters, etc. – and demonstrates the widespread support for the historical, recreational and economic benefits of national monuments. Furthermore, five tribes – Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Ute Mountain and Zuni – formed a coalition with the support of an additional 30 tribes to advocate for the monument.
“Yet, this legislation, which attempts to legitimize the Bears Ears rollback, wasn’t the product of any such public input or support. There have been no public commenting periods or local town halls to discuss. Instead, we’re seeing politicians force a small collective of special interests – those wanting to drill, mine or sell off our public lands to the highest bidder – as public policy.
“Over the 60-day formal comment period leading up to Sec. Zinke’s recommendations, more than 2.8 million comments poured into the Interior Department – a record-breaking response. More than 99 percent of all comments received expressed support for maintaining/expanding national monuments. In the 2017 Conservation in the West poll conducted by Colorado College, 80% of Western voters supported keeping protections for existing monuments in place while only 13% of Western voters supported removing protections for existing monuments.
“This legislation isn’t about respecting the will of the public or even the area’s Native American tribes. It’s not about protecting the cultural heritage the land represents. It’s simply an end-around on the Antiquities Act to try and add legal credibility to President Trump’s Bear Ears rollback. There is significant agreement among legal experts that the Antiquities Act, which grants a president the authority to establish a national monument, does not grant the president the authority to eliminate or significantly alter a national park or national monument.
“We all share the moral obligation to protect our outdoor heritage, to protect these special places and to preserve them as a legacy for future generations – so that our children’s children may experience and learn from them as we do today. All this bill does is give new names to the leftover remnants from the destruction of Bears Ears National Monument.”