By Cobin Szymanski | UTAH
The incapacitating heat oscillates in a rhythm on your skin as you finish the last leg of the hike to the top of the mesa. You gaze at the barren landscape you traveled through to get to this glorious spot. This forsaken area is prized as one of the nations finest monuments, and you now understand the reason why. The suns heat may be incessant, but the view that you are granted at the top of “Bears Ears” is unequivocally the most marvelous thing you have ever seen. While the sky is lucid from this astounding viewpoint, there is also an invisible battle brewing, a battle that will determine the fate of the landscape you so admire.
In 1906, the “Antiquities Act” was passed. This Act granted the President the power to create national monuments protecting historically and environmentally valuable lands. Since the law’s inception roughly 110 years ago, over 175 national monuments have been added in the United States.
In spite of the favorability that Antiquities Act holds, it has not come without controversy. Presidents have been accused of abusing the power provided to them through this act by affecting the lives of many in order to protect a region. As a result, two lawsuits against the United States Government that has led to changes in the law. The alterations occurred in Wyoming and Alaska specifying particular circumstances under which congressional review would be required. Though the President has immense power when deciding the fate of our lands, private citizens still retain the right to possess ownership over it.
The United States secretary of the interior was ordered by President Trump to commence a four-month long process of examining in excess of two dozen sites. This was over four months ago and Zinke has had a revelation. He has suggested to President Trump the diminishing of 3 national monuments. The monuments were either created or expanded by President Clinton, Obama or George. W. Bush under the 1906 antiquities act. The monuments of Bears Ears, Grand Staircase Escalante, and Cascade-Siskiyou have been threatened with the forsaking of a significant acreage and the altering of regulations. This comes at a time when the protection of our environment is as imperative as ever. This is also a contentious act due to the proximity of the sites to reservations and what they could be subjected to if the site were to be disbanded.
With the security of the monuments threatened by our own government people have taken to the streets and the internet.With marches taking place throughout the United States it has gained mainstream attention in recent times. Patagonia an outdoor retailer has displayed the issue on its website giving an option to sign a petition. With national park attendance at record highs, it has been asked why to forsake such a significant tourist location. It has been speculated that the government wants to open up the monument to mining and commercialization, this at a time when the prospects of mining in the U.S are being questioned. With zealous protests raging across the country it may be time to relook at the morality of destroying previous claims of land protection.
With dozens of national monuments under scrutiny from the person most responsible for protecting our landscape, it is time to question the very balance of our nation. Should the government be allowed to set aside limitless expanses of land up to only their discretion and should they be able to endanger the places we hold dear? The answer to that questions lie within ourselves and nation for the land is ours, should we fight for it?
Eilperin, Juliet, and Darryl Fears. “Interior Secretary Recommends Trump Alter at Least Three National Monuments, including Bears Ears.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 24 Aug. 2017. Web. 27 Aug. 2017.
“Parts of National Monument in Utah May Lose Federal Protections.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Aug. 2017. Web. 27 Aug. 2017.
“What Is the Antiquities Act and Why Does President Trump Want to Change It?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Apr. 2017. Web. 27 Aug. 2017.