Five Native Tribes Challenge Trump’s Decision for Bears Ears

“Hours after Trump announced his scaled-back vision for Bears Ears National Monument on Monday, a coalition of five American Indian tribes filed the first lawsuit of many that were promised to challenge the executive action”. By C. Tanner,The Salt Lake Tribune

Harold Cuthair, Chairman of Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, speaks at press conference at the Salt Lake Marriott City Center Monday, December 4, 2017. Photo- (Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune).

Excerpt: Five American Indian tribes, furious over Trump shrinking Bears Ears on his trip to Utah, sue the president-By C. Tanner,The Salt Lake Tribune

“Their argument: Trump does not have the legal authority to shrink the designation…The courts have not weighed in on the matter since the Antiquities Act’s passage 111 years ago. That law authorizes presidents to unilaterally set aside public lands to protect ‘objects of historic and scientific interest,’ which President Barack Obama used to designate the 1.35 million acres in San Juan County last year.

The five tribes — Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and Ute Indian — pushed for the monument status and are suing Trump and members of his administration for splitting the designation into two areas that comprise less than 202,000 acres. In a brief visit to Utah, the president also trimmed Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly 900,000 acres.

In their lawsuit, posted late Monday, the tribes argue to the U.S. District Court in Washington that the Antiquities Act does not allow a president to revoke or modify a monument — only to designate one…At a news conference after Trump’s announcement, tribal leaders condemned the president and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for allegedly snubbing their input, criticized the ‘tremendous affront to tribal sovereignty’ and vowed to fight the revised designations…The tribes are asking for injunctive relief ‘requiring Trump to rescind his proclamation, or prohibiting him from enforcing or implementing it in any way.’ That would stop the orders signed Monday from taking effect so that no permits are issued for oil and gas drilling or uranium and potash mining.

Jonathan Nez, vice president of the Navajo Nation, blasted Trump’s announcement-‘What transpired today, it’s just hard for me to understand,’ Nez said. ‘It’s just another slap in the face for our Native American brothers and sisters.’

Jonathan Nez, Vice President, Navajo Nation, speaks during a press conference at the Salt Lake Marriott City Center Monday, December 4, 2017. (Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune)


U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said in an interview earlier Monday that the president’s action is lawful. ‘It’s been done in the past. It can happen again,’ he said.

Zinke, too, said the administration is on firm legal footing, noting that ‘we didn’t do this in an arbitrary fashion.’ Other monuments, he noted, have been changed 10 times in the past.

Ten environmental and wilderness groups are suing Trump, as well as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, in federal district court in Washington. They are specifically targeting the cuts to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is to be split into three smaller designations and stripped of nearly 900,000 acres.

‘[Trump wants to] turn the key to these lands over to extractive industries and local interests who really want to see them destroyed,’ said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, one of the plaintiffs in the case. ‘No one will look back on this decision in 15, 25 or 50 years and say Trump did the right thing by protecting less of this magnificent place,’ Bloch said.

Puebloan Laguna tribe member Renie Medina weeps during a press conference at the Salt Lake Marriott City Center Monday, December 4, 2017. Photo- (Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune).

Outdoor retailer Patagonia intends to make its case that Trump is ‘taking away recreation areas [from] our customers’ that would financially hurt the company, said its environmental activism manager Ron Hunter.

The Sierra Club called monument reductions a ‘pathetic’ example of Trump’s continued abuse of power.”

Category: Culture