Former Governor and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt implores us to take action to save our precious public lands. Trump is traveling to Utah on Monday, where he will be greeted by protestors in Salt Lake City. Trump will not even visit the monuments he intends to scale back: Bears Ear and Grand Staircase Escalante. He’s flying all the way across the country for a fake news photo op.
The President will reduce Bears Ears by more than 1 million acres and Grand Staircase Escalante will be reduced to somewhere between 700,000 and 1.2 million acres from the 1.8 million acres designated by President Bill Clinton. Trump’s actions are unprecedented.
From here in Coconino County, home of the greatest national park of all as well as several beautiful monuments, we can add our voices to the protest by calling and writing our Senators and Representative. We can also support the organizations which will challenge Trump’s proclamations in court.
Here are excerpts from Governor Babbitt’s editorial today in the New York Times:
America’s wild places survive by the grace of a human promise. For more than 150 years, it has been an article of collective faith and national pride that once we protect a wild place, it is to be safeguarded for all time.
But in the coming days, President Trump will try to shatter that promise.
Mr. Trump’s plans add up to the largest elimination of protected areas in American history. He is a vandal in our midst, coming in person to lay waste to the land. This theft of our heritage should awaken us to the damage being piled up across our public lands under this administration.
If he succeeds, tens of thousands of Native American sacred sites in southern Utah will be at renewed risk of looting. Red rock canyon lands will face the prospect of being stripped for coal and drilled for oil and gas. And the wild places where we hike and hunt and find solitude may not be there for future generations to do the same.
Thankfully, President Trump alone does not have the power to overturn America’s conservation laws and traditions. Congress granted presidents the authority to create national monuments, but not to eliminate them, reduce their size or sell them out to private interests. If the president attempts a unilateral attack on America’s national monuments, the courts can and should step in to restore the rule of law.
Still, President Trump’s attack on America’s national monuments is but one front in his sweeping assault on protected lands and waters.
His interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, has overturned a ban on mining on 10 million acres of wildlife habitat in the West and, against the wishes of Republican and Democratic governors there, is undermining a regionally developed plan to conserve the sagebrush steppe ecosystem. Mr. Zinke’s action will threaten habitat that protects 350 wildlife species and push at least one bird, the greater sage-grouse, closer to the brink of extinction.
His commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, has completed a secret review of national marine sanctuaries and national marine monuments to determine which protected ocean areas should be thrown open for offshore drilling and industrial-scale commercial fishing….
In Congress, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, has added an environmental rider to the Republican tax plan that would require the government to lease part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. The refuge’s coastal plain, which has the largest concentration of land-based polar bear dens in the United States and is a calving ground for the Porcupine caribou herd, would be forever lost to an industrial oil field.
The architects of these attacks are aiming to help private companies make a quick buck off unspoiled lands and waters. But, more fundamentally, they are seeking to undercut the idea of permanence that is the foundation for the protection of all America’s wildlife refuges, national monuments, parks and protected areas.
Trump will not bother visiting the lands he plans to take from us and our children. That probably doesn’t matter because it would be too much, with this President, to expect that he would react as President Teddy Roosevelt at his first visit to the Grand Canyon in 1903. As quoted by Governor Babbitt, the Republican Roosevelt said:
“Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it; not a bit. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children and your children’s children and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American, if he can travel at all, should see.”