OPINION: Advocates Condemn Trump’s Decision on Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante

The Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) condemned this week’s announcement by President Trump to eliminate wide swaths of currently protected, irreplaceable land in designated national monuments just over the Utah border… following a long and secretive process.

Disregarding the wishes of tribes and other local stakeholders, the administration slashed the size of Bears Ears National Monument from 1.35 million acres to 202,000 acres… and Grand Staircase-Escalante to half its current size.

We are concerned the Trump Administration’s only goal is to open up public lands areas to oil and gas drilling and mining. We have a balance of outdoor recreation and drilling in Colorado and in the West, but Trump has just upset that balance.

We know that in many important ways, shrinking Bears Ears National Monument by 90 percent is just as damaging as rescinding its national monument designations.

This decision opens sites of great cultural, sacred and historical value to private development interests. Limiting the protection of Bears Ears threatens the more than 100,000 cultural and archaeological sites there. Among the most significant landscapes in the U.S., the spectacular rock art, dwellings and ceremonial sites were home to the ancestral Puebloans dating back thousands of years and are held sacred to many tribes today. When we give away our public lands to oil and gas that history is lost forever.

As Native American Heritage month came to a close, the president opened the door to drilling on our nation’s sacred and public lands. As a steward of Chimney Rock National Monument, the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) believes all monuments should be kept sacred and safeguarded — not only because that’s the right thing to do, but for our economies. When an area is designated as a monument, our towns become a stop on the tourist map where visitors spend money. We see economic growth, more jobs and increased personal income. We want to defend an outdoor economy that creates thousands of jobs and millions in local spending directly generated by nearby dependably-preserved designated lands.

Rural western counties with more than 30 percent protected public lands have seen the number of jobs increase by 345% over areas without protected lands.

Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) is a non-profit organization that operates Chimney Rock National Monument in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

Danyelle Leentjes

Danyelle Leentjes is Administrative Director for Chimney Rock Interpretive Association, which provides services at Chimney Rock National Monument.