President Donald Trump plans to announce the shrinking of two Utah national monuments next week, in a move that has already angered environmentalists and Native Americans.
The national monuments of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante will see a combined 2 million acres of protected land cut, according to leaked documents obtained by the Associated Press. The reductions would shrink Bears Ears by about 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly half. The national monuments currently stand at 1.35 million acres and 1.9 million acres respectively.
Locals and visitors have long come to the monuments not only for their cultural value among Native Americans but also for their well-conserved hiking and camping grounds.
Bears Ears in particular is sacred to many Native American tribes, as it contains thousands of artifacts, including ancient petroglyphs, or rock carvings. Five tribes — the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and the Ute Indian Tribe — have already begun making plans to sue jointly following the announcement, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday.
“The tribes view this as an affront to themselves and their own self-determination,” Natalie Landreth, senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, told the Tribune.
Trump is not planning to visit the monuments or to stay overnight in Utah following the announcement, according to the same report. The process to shrink the lands first began back in April when Trump signed an executive order directing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to evaluate any national monument larger than 100,000 acres that was established in the past 21 years.
Former President Barack Obama made Bears Ears a national monument during his last month in office, and former President Bill Clinton designated Grand Staircase-Escalante during his presidency.
Proponents of the more recent national monument status for Bears Ears argued that it protected these valuable artifacts from destruction or redevelopment. Opponents, including Western Conservatives, said that the large acreage of the monument gave the federal government too much power over the land, The Hill reported.
Trump's planned announcement concerning national monuments comes just days after he angered Native Americans when he used a White House event honoring Navajo Code Talkers to refer to a Democratic senator as \”Pocahontas.\”