Photo: Bob Wick / BLM
Supporters of Bears Ears National Monument sent a flood of comments to the Department of the Interior urging that the Utah monument be protected, with more than 685,000 messages of support submitted in just 15 days. Interior’s Bears Ears comment period closes tonight.
“Trump and Zinke need to listen to the American people for once instead of corporate polluters. The people have made it crystal clear that they stand with Bears Ears and in solidarity with the Bears Ears Inter-tribal Coalition,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center for Biological Diversity’s executive director. “They won’t stand by while Trump and anti-public lands zealots plunder and pillage the country’s most stunning landscapes and cultural treasures for profits.”
President Trump last month ordered a review of Bears Ears and 26 other national monuments at the behest of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), one of the most anti-public-lands members of Congress. Hatch’s political career has been well funded by the fossil fuel industry, including the Koch brothers and Chevron.
A survey of dozens of organizations reveals that more than 685,000 public comments have been submitted to Interior in support of Bears Ears. The regulations.gov website displays each bundle of comments submitted from concerned groups as a single comment, significantly understating the number received.
“Trump’s order to ‘review’ national monuments is a sham. A president doesn’t have the authority to change or rescind national monuments,” Suckling said. “The designation of Bears Ears followed years of advocacy by tribes to protect their ancestral lands and sacred sites. The public wants this magnificent landscape and the natural wonders within to be protected for future generations.”
Under the order, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is to recommend whether to retain monument status, shrink or rescind certain monuments designated since 1996. Zinke opened a 60-day public comment period for all monuments except Bears Ears, which was allowed only 15 days for public comment.
The close of the comment period for the other monuments is July 10. Zinke is to issue interim recommendation on Bears Ears by June 10.
The Antiquities Act is one of America’s oldest and most important conservation laws. It allows presidents to quickly protect natural and cultural resources when Congress fails to act, in order to preserve objects of “historic and scientific importance.” The act has protected some of America’s most iconic and important natural and cultural landscapes, including Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Acadia and Olympic national parks.