Bears Ears National Monument is Sacred Land

“When you turn the management over to the tree-huggers, the bird and bunny lovers and the rock lickers, you turn your heritage over,” Mr. Noel [a Utah state representative] said.”  – NYTimes: Interior Secretary Proposes Shrinking Four National Monuments

What about the heritage of the Indigenous people of the region who have been there for many more generations than the descendants of colonists? What about preserving their sacred spaces? Why do Zinke and Trump feel this need to take away a federal monument conceived of and negotiated by a coalition of Native tribes, a notable and important landmark designation? #SaveBearsEars

The Antiquities Act limits monument designations to the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected,” a requirement that many conservative lawmakers have accused presidents of ignoring.

Mr. Zinke, in announcing the review, called it “long overdue” and pointed out that the average size of national monuments had grown over the years from 442 acres to more than a million.”

One the one hand, a so-called federal overreach that expands our protected, public lands wouldn’t bother me at all. On the other hand, when the first antiquities were protected and first national parks set aside, science wasn’t involved in the process. People didn’t know what they were doing. We are learning more about ecological processes all the time; it is now clear that we need big swathes of protected land, connected corridors, so that species can adapt as the climate changes, so that populations remain large enough to have a fighting chance at continuing and adapting.

Of course, preserving notable geological formations can be done with less acreage set aside, just to keep the most obvious novelties from being carved away by mining and stealing and whatever else.

But if you are trying to preserve and champion a living, changing landscape, sacred for its history and artifacts but also for the fact that it gives life to the plants and animals that populate it–you need a lot more land. Our national parks and monuments should be getting bigger.

And although national parks have been fought at every turn, illegal extractive activities continued after official designations–in the end, the majority of America always ends up thankful for the foresight of those who fought for these protections.