“Monumental mistake”

Trump shrinks Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in controversial announcement

On Dec. 4, Donald Trump announced his plans to shrink the federally protected Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by more than 50% of their original sizes.

Former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton set aside Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante under the Antiquities Act of 1906, that gives presidents the power to set aside national monuments, as opposed to national parks which are designated by Congress.

According to the National Park Service, the Antiquities Act of 1906, gave federal agencies the power to regulate and manage archaeological sites and protect them from destruction and looting.

For the Utah politicians opposed to the designation Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both Clinton and Obama violated the terms of the act which kept the monuments within “the smallest area compatible.”

According to Trump, many areas previously protected within the two monuments “are not unique to the monument and are not of significant scientific or historic interest.”

Many Utah locals were in favor of Trump’s decision because it allows for fossil fuel companies and reclamation of rightful local power over the land.

“The families and communities of Utah know and love this land the best and you know the best how to take care of your land,” Trump said. “You know how to protect it. And you know best how to conserve this land for many, many generations to come.”

On the other hand, many environmentalists and Native American tribes are opposed to Trump’s shrinking of the protected land due to threats of destruction of not only recreational areas but also areas of historical significance.

In response to Trump’s decision, companies such as Patagonia and the North Face immediately began campaigning for the federal protection of the lands.

Patagonia changed their website front page to an all black background, with the words “the President Stole Your Land,” written boldly in white. They encouraged people enraged by the decision to speak out and tweet the administration about continuing federal protection with hashtags like “#monumentalmistake.”

The North Face posted a series of Instagram photos that asked for donations to a Bears Ears Visitor and Education Center, where they also donated $100,000.

The outrage came from big brand name companies, recreational sports celebrities and people across the country alike.

Senior Sarah Grace Stafford supported Patagonia on her Instagram story.

“This is the largest elimination of protected land in our history and that’s just not okay,” Stafford said. “It fires me up because protected lands are protected for a reason, and they have value and meaning for so many people.”

For Stafford, this move could have much bigger implications.

“I’m scared if [Trump] can get away with this, then he could get away with getting rid of other protected areas like national parks,” Stafford said. “They are so important to so many people, including me, and provide homes for wildlife and jobs for many people.”

For others, the decision is a return to giving power back to the people who rightfully own the land. Trump’s decision puts the lands in a position to be developed and used as locals of Utah see fit.  

Video courtesy of New York Times, featured image licensed under public domain.