The current administration’s plans to reduce Bears Ears National Park, from 1.35 million acres to a measly 201,876 acres (Popovich 1) highlights another attack on not only environmentalist values, but the culture of Native Americans who have long faced similar repression at the hands of the federal government. President Obama had created the park as a way to preserve the natural beauty of Utah from urban sprawl and exploitative corporations who seek to mine and defile the land (Smardon 1). Within less than two years, however, Trump appears motivated to simply undo any environmental action of the previous administration, perhaps in his zealous attempt to simply undermine whatever his predecessor achieved. This is not to say Obama was perfect, as he allowed the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to cut through sacred lands in Montana and other states. However, that action might have been justified because it at least was motivated as a way to secure energy independence. Trump’s motivation to shrink Bears Ears National Park to less than one-sixth of its current size shows no such consideration, and its only goal is to allow corporations to exploit the land.
According to local Native American tribal leader Shaun Capoose, opening this land will only invite desecration, and many Native American artifacts will surely be taken by grave robbers and those who seek to make a quick buck on further exploiting Native culture (NPR 1). Without the federal protection of these lands, they just might get away with it as well. Instead of respecting and honoring the land, the land will be opened up to golf courses, strip malls, and trails where people can ride their dirt bikes, most likely as loudly as they can, disrupting the beauty of nature that currently exists in the region. Imagine the high desert plateaus and beautiful valleys with a McDonald’s and Walmart, along with the trash that typically goes along with this type of urban sprawl. The pristine rivers and streams will be polluted by factories dumping whatever waste they produce. In other words, if this plan is allowed to continue, and it very well looks like it might because Trump has the support of the Utah state government, get ready for a lot more pollution, and a ruined land.
Utah has long seen conflicts between western expansion and Native Tribes (Larsen 1). At the heart of the conflict is the same theme that has unfortunately continued to be a blight on American history: the way that Native tribes have been consistently exploited, removed, and marginalized by the federal government. As this has occurred, there has been a rapid increase in pollution, climate change, and commercialism of the worst kind. The current administration seems to support this commercialization with the idea that doing so would be good for the local economy. The basic argument is that Native tribes will benefit from opening this land to exploitation. This is how the government sees our people: they would rather see us in a Walmart frock, or working as a caddy on an overly expensive and exclusive golf club, and they expect us to call this progress. This is the type of economic progress the government is trying to sell, all in the name of progress.
What we can learn from this fiasco is that all progress can be erased. When the land was designated a national monument during the final year of Obama’s term, many of us rejoiced. Yet here we are, less than two years later, once again having to fight simply to protect the land of our ancestors. Bears Ears national monument should not be reduced, and doing so would be a national disgrace.
- Larsen, Leia. “Why is Bears Ears National Monument causing controversy? Standard-Examiner, December 29, 2016. Accessible online at http://www.standard.net/Environment/2016/12/29/why-is-bears-ears-national-monument-controversy-obama-big-deal
- NPR. “Native Americans React to Cuts to Bears Ears National Monument.” All Things Considered, December 4, 2017. Accessible online at https://www.npr.org/2017/12/04/568393442/native-americans-react-to-cuts-to-bears-ears-national-monument
- Popovich, Nadja. “Bears Ears National Monument is Shrinking. Here’s What is Being Cut.” The New York Times, December 8, 2017. Accessible online at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/08/climate/bears-ears-monument-trump.html
- Smardon, Andrea. “We’ll see the battle lines”: Trump faced by Native American alliance over Bears Ears. The Guardian, December 4, 2017. Accessible online at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/04/native-american-alliance-bears-ears-trump