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Utah Navajo Leaders Threaten to Sue Trump Admin over Shrinking Bears Ear Monument

Bears Ears National Monument in Utah
Bears Ear Monument in Utah

It appears President Trump has an obsession with former President Barack Obama. The president just wants to undo every decision made by the former president.

Ahead of the release of a broad government review of 27 national monuments designated by past presidents across the country, the top lawyer of the Navajo Nation said Thursday that they would sue the Trump administration if it tries to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

At the urging of the Navajo and four other Native American tribes, former President Barack Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument under the Antiquities Act shortly before leaving office. However, Trump said that past presidents abused the Antiquities Act and put too much land off limits to development.

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President Donald Trump plans to reduce or rescind the 27 national monuments to make way for oil and gas drilling and other economic development.

The Interior Department has not announced the results yet, but a leak of the review obtained by the media shows the Interior Department will recommend shrinking some sites, including Bears Ears, a 1.35-million-acre wilderness that the Navajo and other tribes consider sacred.

“We are prepared to challenge immediately whatever official action is taken to modify the monument or restructure any aspect of that, such as the Bears Ears Commission,” Attorney General of the Navajo Nation Ethel Branch said.

Branch added that, “The tribe believes changing the boundaries of Bears Ears would violate the Antiquities Act, a century-old law that protects sacred sites, cultural artifacts and other historical objects.”

“President Donald Trump plans to reduce or rescind the 27 national monuments to make way for oil and gas drilling and other economic development”

In a memorandum Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke sent to Trump and leaked to media this week, Zinke recommends shrinking Bears Ears, three other monuments and modifying ten other monuments.

In the memo, Zinke recommends Trump ask Congress to pass legislation creating a tribal co-management structure to oversee cultural resources at Bears Ears. Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, said he is prepared to introduce such legislation.

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Heather Swift, the spokesperson for Zinke, said he met with the local Navajo members of San Juan County that were interested in reducing the monument size and that “multiple tribal listening sessions were held throughout the review period.

Branch said Zinke did not take enough formal input from the governments of the five tribes that form the Bears Ears Commission – the Navajo Nation, the Hopi, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Mountain and Ute Indian tribes.



Contributor, The Liberal Advocate News




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