Trump Has Finalized Industry Friendly Plans for Gutted Utah Monuments

“We’re fighting his illegal evisceration of these national monuments in court.”

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. blws261257 (Credit Image: � Imago/ZUMA Wire)/Zuma

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

This piece was originally published in HuffPost and appears here as part of our Climate Desk Partnership.

The Interior Department on Wednesday adopted final management plans that allow for mining, drilling, and other development on lands that the administration recently removed from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.

The move comes a little more than two years after Trump signed a pair of proclamations to carve more than 2 million acres from the two protected Utah sites—the largest rollback of national monuments in U.S. history—opening up vast swaths of previously protected federal land to extractive industries. 

The resource management plans “mark an important moment in Utah’s history by providing certainty to local communities, business owners, permittees and the recreating public,” Casey Hammond, Interior’s acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management, said in a call with reporters. 

“We are advancing our goal to restore trust and be a good neighbor,” he said.

The Trump administration has said that shrinking the monuments was about reversing federal overreach and not aimed at boosting energy and mineral development, but reporting by The New York Times and other outlets found otherwise. The boundary of Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35 million-acre landscape named after a pair of buttes and home to thousands of Native American archeological and cultural sites, was shrunk roughly 85 percent. The 1.87 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the largest land national monument in the country, was cut roughly in half.

Interior Department officials stressed Wednesday that the administration remains opposed to selling and transferring public lands and that areas removed from monument protection remain safeguarded by multiple federal laws. 

“Any suggestion that these lands and resources will be adversely impacted by the mere act of being excluded from the monuments is simply not true,” Hammond said, adding there’s been “very little real interest in mineral development” on those lands. 

Last week, investors representing nearly $113 billion in assets warned dozens of drilling and mining companies not to move into public lands that the Trump administration has opened for extraction, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. 

Conservation groups, including those currently suing the administration over the monument rollbacks, slammed Wednesday’s announcement.

“It’s the height of arrogance for Trump to rush through final decisions on what’s left of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante while we’re fighting his illegal evisceration of these national monuments in court,” Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Trump is eroding vital protections for these spectacular landscapes. We won’t rest until all of these public lands are safeguarded for future generations.” 

Asked Wednesday why the Interior Department didn’t wait to finalize management plans until its legal challenges were settled, Hammond said, “If we stopped and waited for every piece of litigation to be resolved, we would never be able to do much of anything around here.”

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.