The Trump administration released a management plan for the illegally reduced areas of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah today. With Congressional recess right around the corner, the timed release of the proposed management plans and Final Environmental Impact Statement has been called into question by members of the House Natural Resources Committee. Trump’s illegal reduction of Bears Ears is still being challenged in federal court.
“The release of this management plan days before Congress leaves for a month is dubious at best and reckless at worst. The Trump administration continues to prove its utter disregard of our public lands and outdoor heritage through its strong-armed attempts to illegally shrink this sacred and culturally-critical place. There is a lack of respect for the law, the courts, and the mass public concern that illegally shrinking Bears Ears has evoked. Stealing land away from the public in order to reward their special interest allies seems to be the only priority of this administration,” said Chris Saeger, the Executive Director of the Western Values Project.
On December 4, 2017, President Trump announced his plan to illegally reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument, along with the Grand Staircase Escalante – the largest elimination of public land protections in American history. Since then, conservation groups and tribes have sued the administration, arguing that President Trump didn’t have the authority to reduce the size of the monuments. Cases are still pending in federal court – making Trump’s management plan announcement a move to undermine the court’s decision-making authority.
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, a former mega-lobbyist for extractive industries, strongly supported the illegal reduction of the two national monuments. Previous analysis by the New York Times found that oil was central in the decision to shrink Bears Ears, despite then-Secretary Ryan Zinke’s repeated claims that it was not. Previous Western Values Project analysis has documented that many of the areas taken out of Bears Ears National Monument are rich in oil, gas and uranium reserves.