Bears Ears National Monument’s Valley of the Gods (courtesy the US Bureau of Land Management via Wikimedia) SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The US Department of the Interior has finalized plans to allow drilling, mining, and grazing in once-protected national monuments in southern Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by redrawing the boundaries of the monuments, reducing them by nearly 85 and 50 percent respectively. Bears Ears, located near Blanding, Utah, is home to numerous petroglyph sites, Native American cliff dwellings , and numerous historical artifacts. This land is tied to the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Hopi Nation, and many others. Grand Staircase-Escalante is popular among hikers, bikers, rock climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Not only is the area home to ancient art sites, scientists have also unearthed 75-million-year-old dinosaur fossils of many species. In addition to ancient landmarks and artifacts, these lands are also home to large amounts of oil, gas, and coal which were specifically targeted for removal from monument status.
A legal battle is likely to take place over these sites as they are sacred to many Native American nations and treasured by scientists and recreationists. According to the US Forest Service , national monument status preserves “current uses of the land, including tribal access for traditional plant and firewood gathering and for ceremonial purposes, off-highway recreation on existing routes, grazing, hunting and fishing and water and utility infrastructure.” The Trump administration has said that the boundary changes were aimed at mitigating federal overreach, rather […]