bears_ears

Proving again that there is nothing the Obama administration did that he will not undo, President Donald Trump is expected to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by as much as 92 percent.

Trump was headed to Utah on Monday to make the announcement, which reverses an Obama-era designation designed at least in part to keep the wilderness area off-limits to commercial development. From The New York Times:

The move is particularly significant because it is expected to trigger a legal battle that could alter the course of American land conservation, possibly opening millions of protected public acres to oil and gas extraction, mining, logging and other commercial activities.

Opponents of the move are expected to sue to stop it under the Antiquities Act, the 1906 law signed by President Theodore Roosevelt that gives a president the power to create national monuments out of federal land.

The Antiquities Act has never been strongly tested in court. Should opponents of the Bears Ears move sue and lose, it could open the way for presidents to open up a lot more public land to private commercial interests, no matter the historical, cultural, or scientific features needing protection that drove the protection of that land as a national monument in the first place.

Over the weekend, protesters who want to see Bears Ears left alone protested Trump's decision at the Utah State Capitol building:

On the other side, excluding the mineral extraction industries that never saw a wilderness area they didn't want to destroy, are the proponents of local control who oppose federal encroachment because freedom, or something. One local tried, awkwardly, to tie the Obama-era designation of Bears Ears to another issue that has been in the news lately:

For its opponents, it was an abuse of power by Mr. Obama, an infringement on the right of local people to decide what happens in their backyard.

“Our country places a high premium on consent,” said Phil Lyman, a county commissioner who lives at the edge of the monument. The designation, he said, “felt very nonconsensual.”

No word on whether Mr. Lyman tried that argument on representatives of the five Native American nations with a claim to the land who lobbied the Obama administration to designate the monument in the first place. One would assume those tribes might also have something to say to Mr. Lyman about the federal government taking locals' land without consent.

Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.

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