Commentary: WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the lead Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Interior Department’s budget, issued the following response to President Trump’s decision to massively roll back protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments.
“Let’s get one thing clear: Donald Trump’s decision to roll back Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments by over 80 percent isn’t a reconfiguration of the boundaries. His proclamation revokes the original monument boundaries, eviscerating protections for the lands and artifacts found upon them, and amounts to the largest frontal assault on public lands in history. These are lands of stunning natural beauty, unique ecology, and sacred meaning that the United States holds in trust for all of the American people. And today, the president attacked their cultural and historical significance, the outdoor recreation jobs in Southeastern Utah that depend on the monuments, and the stunning natural heritage we preserve for future generations.
“Most serious of all, the president’s actions are deeply insulting to the Native American Tribes who worked over many years to establish Bears Ears National Monument and now co-manage the monument. The Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni, and Hopi tribes urged protection to shield sacred land and cultural sites from looting, vandalism, and energy development. The president is lifting protections for tens of thousands of Native American sacred sites, putting them at risk, and opening them for coal, oil and gas development. Trump’s decision to rescind protections and create new boundaries was made in secret — the public had no opportunity to review the plans or the decision-making process, and the Tribes were not consulted. Donald Trump’s ignorance and repeated disrespect for Native Americans diminish the office of the president of the United States.
“For all of these reasons, I believe this attack on public lands and heritage will not stand up to scrutiny. President Trump doesn’t have the legal authority to diminish a monument. He is using never-tested and dubious legal theories to try to reverse designations, and he will be challenged in court. I support the legal fight, and I will fight the president every step of the way in my capacity as the Democratic leader on Senate Indian Affairs and the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.”