Dean M. Chriss
Photography

A Sad Day for America

On Monday December 4, 2017 Donald Trump reduced the size of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument by 80 percent and 45 percent respectively. This action will allow the coal, oil, gas, uranium, and timber industries to destroy more than 2 million acres of federally owned land; land that belongs to every American citizen. According to Utah's republican Senator Orrin Hatch, Trump had promised him the Kaiparowits Plateau would be opened to coal mining so that will likely be the first area destroyed.

For perspective the area to be exploited is 2.6 times the size of Rhode Island, more than twice the size of Montana's Glacier National Park, and larger than Washington's Olympic National Park and Big Bend National Park in Texas combined. It is more than 40 times the size of Maine's Acadia National Park. How would people today judge a past decision to hand Glacier and Olympic National Parks (a little smaller than the area we are discussing) over to the mining industry? That is exactly how the future will judge this decision.

These places are the most rugged and pristine I have seen. They are a beautiful and irreplaceable wilderness of canyons and convoluted sandstone formations that contain dinosaur fossils, petrified trees, and literally thousands of ancient Ancestral Puebloan buildings and other archaeological sites, many of which lose protection. What will be left is a fragmented patchwork of small "protected" sites that enclose a few things someone in the Trump administration deemed worthy of protection. In reality anyone who has been there knows the only real protection for anything in these monuments is remoteness. Even now modern bullets shot by locals who claim to be better "stewards" of this place have pock marked the more accessible ancient rock art panels.

The Trump proclamations are an outright assault on America's natural heritage and among the most destructive acts in America's history. If they stand this vast and unbroken landscape will be changed forever, from national monuments of unequalled grandeur to monuments of greed and short-sighted stupidity.