Today, President Trump turned against our country’s public lands by announcing a drastic – and possibly illegal – attack on national monuments in southern Utah. The president announced his plan to dramatically reduce Bears Ears National Monument and Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument. He will eliminate 84% of Bears Ears National Monument, and rescind about half of Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument. Both monuments have significant outdoor recreation resources, including world-famous climbing, mountain biking, whitewater paddling, hiking, canyoneering, and even skiing.
This action would have significant consequences for the outdoor community, and for climbers in particular. The original monument proclamation took special care to recognize outdoor recreation in the region, and the new boundaries expose 40% of climbing resources that were protected under the original monument.
Leaders in the outdoor recreation community responded to the unprecedented attack on public lands. Adam Cramer, Executive Director of Outdoor Alliance, said, “The great thing about national monuments is that they let presidents tell a story about a place, and help us better understand who we are as a country. Instead of using his vision to add another chapter to the American story, today President Trump used his power to dismember and destroy Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monuments. Rather than going for bigger and better, he went for petty and small. Thankfully, this story probably isn’t over just yet.”
Bears Ears National Monument was designated at the end of the Obama administration to protect more than a million acres of public land based on the area’s importance as a Native American cultural site. The area also includes iconic destinations for human-powered outdoor recreation that benefit from the stronger protections that come with a National Monument designation. The landscape was designated after years of work from tribes, Utah locals, and recreation and conservation groups including Outdoor Alliance and our partners at Access Fund and the American Alpine Club; the designation came only after Congress failed to pass a number of measures to protect the region.
Grand-Staircase Escalante was established in 1996 by President Clinton to protect almost 2 million acres of land in southern Utah from the threat of coal mining and resource extraction. The region was one of the last areas in the continental U.S. to be mapped, and its vast and rugged terrain has incredible outdoor recreation, including hiking, whitewater paddling, climbing, and mountain biking.
If he succeeds, President Trump’s actions would be a historic attack on public lands as the largest reduction of what we had once considered permanent protections. The president’s legal authority to take the actions he announced today is extremely questionable, and a number of groups, including Native American tribes, conservation groups, and recreation groups, are evaluating or are expected to take legal action. Outdoor Alliance will continue to support the efforts of our partners mounting legal challenges to these rollbacks.
In the meantime, it’s still very important to let your members of Congress know how outraged you are by the President’s actions. Making sure that Congress understands how deeply unpopular today’s actions are will help ensure that the President pays a political cost for his decision, help to make future attacks less likely, and also help to lay the groundwork for reestablishing monument protections for these areas.