Antiquities Act Archives


  • July 26th, 2019

    Bears Ears (c) Jeff Foott.

    MOAB, UT — Utah’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues to rush forward a plan for the illegally reduced Bears Ears National Monument that completely ignores the more than 1 million acres removed by an unlawful executive order and leaves most of the culturally and scientifically significant lands unprotected.

    In a final plan released today, the BLM proposes to manage even the remaining 15 percent of Bears Ears National Monument in a way that doesn’t sufficiently protect cultural resources and sacred sites, leaving them more vulnerable to destruction than ever before.

    Just as numerous reports have shown that the reductions were in fact focused on drilling and mining, this proposed plan shows that the BLM misled the public when claiming that a reduced boundary would allow them to better manage and protect what they considered to be the most important historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest in the Bears Ears region.

    The planning process was started under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke despite protests from Congress, and newly appointed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has continued to ignore calls by Congress to halt planning while also disregarding active litigation challenging the Trump administration’s initial executive action.

    Secretary Zinke claimed in a monuments review interim report that a reduced boundary would allow the agency to “concentrate preservation resources,” and in his final report to President Trump, he claimed to be concerned that “that increased visitation can threaten the objects… monuments that span up to a million acres or more are difficult to protect.” This final management plan proves that this was never about resources or practical ability to protect sites, but about a concerted effort to remove protections at every opportunity.

    The nearly final plan released by the BLM fails in a number of ways:

    • Protection of cultural resources was the primary reason for Bears Ears monument designation. However, the plan chooses several management actions that would have significant impacts on cultural resources. The agencies highlight that they seek to protect identified cultural sites, but the vast majority of the monument has not yet been surveyed for cultural resources.
    • Bears Ears is home to world-class recreation opportunities. These opportunities should be preserved, but also managed so they don’t impact monument resources like cultural and paleontological sites. A recreation area management plan is scheduled to be implemented three years after the cultural resource management plan is put in place, meaning it will likely be at least five years from the final decision — a timeframe that would result in damage and degradation.
    • Bears Ears is home to some of the most unique paleontological resources in the world. Under the agencies’ preferred plan, surface-disturbing activities — including rights-of-way and potential new off-road vehicle routes — would be allowed in areas with high potential for yielding fossils, and fossil-bearing areas that are currently protected would be opened to development. The agencies’ plan provides few restrictions on camping, target shooting, hiking, and biking around paleontological resources. Moreover, under the agencies’ preferred plan, monitoring would only take place annually and only loss of, or damage to, significant fossil resources would trigger mitigation measures. This would violate federal law as Section 6302 of the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act requires agencies to conduct surveys regardless of the potential impact to fossils from other uses.

    Quotes from local, national, and scientific organizations:

    Neal Clark, Wildlands Program Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance:

    “As though reducing Bears Ears National Monument by nearly 85 percent wasn’t damaging enough, now the BLM’s plan ignores the concerns of tribes, archaeologists, conservationists, and the vast majority of the public by rolling back protections of the remaining 15 percent, creating a monument in name only. This plan means that one of America’s richest cultural landscapes continues to lack the protections it deserves.”

    Tim Peterson, Cultural Landscapes Program Director, Grand Canyon Trust:

    “National monuments are meant to protect our shared history and heritage while leaving a legacy for future generations. The Trump administration not only defiled our shared history by unlawfully reducing Bears Ears, they’re showing contempt for our legacy by choosing at every turn in their proposed plan to give protection short shrift. The way in which they’ve added the insult of this detestable plan to the injury of slashing Bears Ears is deeply disturbing, and it cannot stand.”

    Phil Hanceford, Director of Agency Policy & Planning, The Wilderness Society:

    “The BLM is moving rapidly with limited public input towards their goal of stripping protections from some of the nation’s most treasured and sensitive lands. The Bears Ears region continues to be threatened by the hasty, illegal, and un-scientific effort by a few to open as much of our public lands to drilling and mining as possible. People should be outraged.”

    Brian Sybert, Executive Director, Conservation Lands Foundation:

    “This rushed and reckless plan ignores tribes tied to this sacred and irreplaceable cultural landscape. It also ignores the majority of westerners who opposed slashing its size and who understand the value our public lands hold for recreation, science, and rural economies that depend on them for the long-term. It puts to rest any argument about the administration’s real motives in rolling back protections for Bears Ears and millions of other acres in the West: they are opening the door to development for their friends in industry — no matter the price for everyone else.”

    P. David Polly, Immediate Past President, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology:

    “To further his own political ends, Trump cut out most of the fossil sites for which Bears Ears was created, a loss to science and a loss every American. He did not have the authority to make the cuts and the management plans must be rewritten to protect the entire monument. They should be suspended until the courts have ruled on the boundaries like Congress itself has requested.”

    Rose Marcario, CEO and President, Patagonia:

    “The executive order abolishing Bears Ears was illegal and no management plan for these lands should proceed until resolution of the lawsuits. The president’s effort to reduce Bears Ears’ boundaries was done at the behest of mining and oil and gas industries. And this plan is another demonstration of this administration’s preference for extractive industry profit at the expense of the American people. Bears Ears contains iconic landscapes, sacred places, and priceless artifacts and this plan puts all of them under threat. Not to mention this is a colossal waste of time because the BLM will have to create a plan for the full Bears Ears as originally designated after we win the lawsuit.”

    Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney of Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountains Office:

    “If we win the legal fight to restore Bears Ears National Monument, this plan will just be 800 pages of wasted effort. Even in the parts of Bears Ears that President Trump left intact, he’s planning on putting destructive activities before the American public’s interests. Bears Ears is not the kind of place for chaining thousands of acres of forest or stringing up utility lines. These are wild, sweeping monument lands.”

    Erik Murdock, Policy Director, Access Fund:

    “The Bears Ears region deserves landscape-scale protections. The reduction of Bears Ears National Monument is a direct threat to the Bears Ears landscape, traditional values, and recreation opportunities. The region contains some of the best sandstone rock climbing in the world because of its rock quality and inspirational setting. Access Fund believes that an appropriate management plan should be developed after the litigation is resolved and the boundaries of the monument are reinstated.”

    Colin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation:

    “The illegal decimation of Bears Ears National Monument opens up ancestral lands of the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni to development that will likely degrade critical wildlife habitat, fragment migration corridors, and potentially expose southern Utah communities to unacceptable pollution and health risks. Now the management plan for the meager remnants of the original monument simply pours salt in the open wounds of the tens of thousands of tribal leaders and citizens who fought for decades to conserve these sacred lands.”

    Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association:

    “This management plan is an insult to the public, who overwhelmingly spoke out in favor of protecting Bears Ears — and all our national monuments. Today’s plan opens the monument to damaging uses that carelessly put troves of scientific resources, sacred spaces, and adjacent national park landscapes in jeopardy. Our parks don’t exist in isolation, and the administration’s plan ignores the long-recognized threats to parks from harmful activities outside their borders, putting at risk their air and water quality, dark night skies and expansive viewsheds, as well as the multi-million dollar economy they support. The only management plan acceptable is one that encompasses Bears Ears’ entire landscape and protects the values and resources for which the monument was originally and legally created.”

    Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer, National Trust for Historic Preservation:

    “This monument management plan is fundamentally flawed and premature. The National Trust and other plaintiffs are actively challenging President Trump’s unprecedented rollback of the monument’s land area by 85 percent. The plan should not be finalized before the litigation is complete. Given that the plan only considers the management needs of the much smaller — and currently contested — footprint, it is not a credible document. The plan also falls far short of providing a framework for proper stewardship of a landscape that holds deep significance for multiple tribes. It completely lacks appropriate measures to ensure protection of the significant cultural and historic resources that prompted the national monument designation in the first place and appears to leave the resources with even less protection than they had before the monument was designated. We will continue to push for the restoration of the Bears Ears National Monument to its original boundaries, and for a comprehensive management plan that truly protects the resources on the land that tell the stories of more than 12,000 years of human history.”

  • January 10th, 2019

    Moab, UT (January 10, 2019) – In response to the introduction by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) of the Protect Utah’s Rural Economy (PURE) Act, which would limit the ability of the president to protect landscapes in Utah through the use of the Antiquities Act, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) executive director Scott Groene issued the following statement:

    “This bill is just the latest in a long line of extremist anti-conservation bills put forth by some members of the Utah delegation. The short-sightedness of the Act should be expected from Senator Lee, but it is extremely disappointing to see one of Senator Romney’s first acts in Congress be such unconsidered parroting of worn-out anti-environmental talking points.

    “Four out of five of Utah’s national parks started out as national monuments, and two of the crown jewels of our public lands — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments — were protected using the Antiquities Act. All of these protections were opposed by Utah politicians with no vision for the future.

    “SUWA will fight this bill and any attempt by the Utah delegation to undermine the right of Americans to protect their public lands.”

  • September 24th, 2018

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Circle Cliffs along the Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah,

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Legal Director, (801)-859-1552 or steve@suwa.org

    Washington, D.C. (September 24, 2018) — This morning, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled from the bench and denied a motion to transfer the lawsuits challenging President Trump’s illegal evisceration of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments to Utah.

    The United States, supported by the state of Utah, had moved to transfer the lawsuits from federal court in Washington, D.C. to Utah. That motion was opposed by the plaintiffs, including Native American tribes, conservation groups and local businesses.

    “We are gratified by today’s decision by Judge Chutkan to keep these  significant cases in federal district court in Washington, D.C. With this venue issue behind us we look forward to tackling the merits of President Trump’s unlawful decisions to dismantle Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    SUWA is a plaintiff in two of the cases challenging Trump’s actions.

  • September 18th, 2018

    Twenty-two years ago, the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was designated, encompassing one of our nation’s most spectacular and scientifically important wilderness landscapes. It includes world-class fossil sites, archaeological and historical treasures, unique geologic formations, and incredible intact ecosystems—all of which the monument’s original designation was designed to safeguard for future generations.

    Of course, clouding this significant anniversary is President Trump’s illegal order last December to carve up Grand Staircase-Escalante, excluding a huge portion of its original land area from Antiquities Act protection and leaving a much smaller fragment behind.

    Even though we are challenging this move in court, the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are moving forward with management plans for the “new” almost 50% reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the 700,000 acres of land it no longer includes.

    Click here to help save Grand Staircase-Escalante! Submit your comments by November 15th!

    Circle Cliffs, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Copyright Jeff Foott

    Drafts of these new plans were just released for public comment and they are nothing short of alarming. Among a host of other shortsighted and harmful actions that would be allowed are prospects for new coal, oil, and gas development—that is, these management plans would sacrifice public lands cut from the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to future mining and drilling.

    As SUWA Legal Director Steve Bloch explains, “The BLM’s proposed management plan for the lands President Trump unlawfully carved out of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is not only illegal, but sets the stage for the destruction of this unique landscape that has been protected for more than two decades. The BLM’s preferred alternative would open this remarkable place to new oil and gas leasing, mining, and off-road vehicle damage.”

    Tell the BLM why you love Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and want to see it fully protected!

    The BLM is asking for the public to comment on these plans. Please help save Grand Staircase-Escalante from a management plan that would do nothing to quell future drilling, mining, and off-road vehicle damage on these treasured public lands.

    There are so many reasons to love the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the BLM needs to hear from you about how and why its plans must do better. Take action and comment now!

    Click here to submit your comments by November 15th!

  • February 6th, 2018

    As you know, on December 4, 2017, President Trump signed two illegal proclamations that seek to significantly reduce the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments.

    Despite legal challenges filed by SUWA and partner organizations over these unlawful abuses of presidential authority, the Bureau of Land Management is moving forward with creating new land use plans that reflect the diminished boundaries in both monuments.

    Even as we remain confident that President Trump’s actions will be invalidated by the courts, it’s important that you speak up as the BLM begins to move forward with its new management plans.

    Comments on the land use plans are due April 11th, 2018.

    >> Click here to comment on Bears Ears National Monument.

    >> Click here to comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    (Please note: you must comment separately on each monument plan.)

    We encourage you to write personalized comments, as the agency is likely to disregard boilerplate messages. In writing your comments, please consider emphasizing the following points:

    • The proclamations reducing the monuments are, first and foremost, unlawful actions that will ultimately be overturned by a court of law. Under the Antiquities Act, the president only has the authority to create a national monument, and only Congress can revoke or reduce the boundaries of an existing monument.
    • The BLM should abstain from management planning until a court has ruled on the legality of President Trump’s action. Rapidly moving forward with this planning effort is a waste of valuable agency resources that would be better spent addressing much needed on-the-ground cultural and natural resource protection issues.

    Additional talking points are available at the links below:

    >> Click here to comment on Bears Ears National Monument.


    >> Click here to comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    Your comments submitted by March 19th play a critical role in protecting Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in the short term, while our legal team works daily to restore the monuments for all time.

    Thank you for taking action.