Durbin, Senators Press President Trump To Protect Utah National Monuments
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today led 15 of his Senate colleagues in urging President Trump to maintain the current boundaries and management plans for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments in Utah. Durbin and his colleagues wrote President Trump today following reports by both The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal that Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke recommended modifying certain national monuments, including shrinking the boundaries of at least four western sites in a memorandum referred to as “Monument Review.”
“National monuments have preserved our country’s unique public lands, extraordinary history, and our common culture as a people,” wrote the Senators in a letter to President Trump. “We urge you not to reduce their boundaries in any way, to move ahead on developing the management plan for the Bears Ears with the contributions of the Bears Ears Advisory Committee, and to leave the management plan for Grand Staircase-Escalante in place.”
The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Brain Schatz (D-HI), Al Franken (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
In April, Durbin introduced legislation – America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act – to protect 9.2 million acres of public land in Utah that is rich in archaeological resources and home to numerous rare plant and animal species.
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
October 23, 2017
The Honorable Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Trump,
We are concerned about the Administration’s plan to reduce both the size and protections for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments under the Administration’s “Monument Review.” National monuments have preserved our country’s unique public lands, extraordinary history, and our common culture as a people. We urge you not to reduce their boundaries in any way, to move ahead on developing the management plan for the Bears Ears with the contributions of the Bears Ears Advisory Committee, and to leave the management plan for Grand Staircase-Escalante in place.
A copy of Secretary Zinke’s recommendation memo regarding the Monument Review was obtained by both The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. According to reports, it proposed reducing the boundaries of both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. However, the memo was vague, containing few specifics regarding the new boundaries or specific management changes being suggested. Regardless, we feel any changes to these monuments puts the resources and cultural sites they were created to protect at risk.
Secretary Zinke’s memo claims that Bears Ears is larger than needed to preserve the thousands of Native American artifacts it contains. But, the tribes that requested the monument asked for a protective area that was 600,000 acres larger than Bears Ears’ current boundaries, and archaeologists agree they’ve barely scratched the surface of the abundance of artifacts in the monument. The thousands of discrete granaries, petroglyphs, pots, and dwellings add up to a complete picture that can only be understood if the boundaries remain intact. Furthermore, the tribes that advocated for the monument continue to support its protection and oppose any changes to the boundary or management.
In the review of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Secretary Zinke claimed its designation has hindered grazing. However, grazing in the area has decreased by a mere one percent since the monument’s creation. The report also claims that the monument led to the closure of the Paria River Road. However, the road is located in a designated wilderness area that pre-dates the designation of the monument.
It is clear that any changes to these monuments threaten their important natural, archeological, and cultural resources. We encourage you to maintain the current boundaries and management plans for all our monuments to ensure they will be protected for future generations.
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