Plaintiff Organizations in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Cases Decry Administration’s Final Management Plans

Brian Sybert
|February 06, 2020

Management Plans Ignore Tribes, Courts and the Public

February 6, 2020 (SALT LAKE CITY, Utah)—Today, sovereign tribal nations, local and national groups - all plaintiffs in the federal court cases challenging the legality of the Trump Administration’s reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments - released a joint statement. This statement comes in response to the Bureau of Land Management’s Record of Decision finalizing resource management plans for the Monuments. 

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments are both world-renowned hotbeds of paleontological research, world-class destinations for outdoor recreation and natural beauty, and major economic drivers for small businesses in these regions. Bears Ears has been home to Hopi, Diné, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni peoples since time immemorial, and was designated as a national monument in 2016 to protect countless archaeological, cultural, and natural resources, including the wealth of traditional knowledge that Native people hold for this region. It is the first tribally requested national monument.

Below are statements from the plaintiff organizations.

Statements Regarding Bears Ears National Monument: 

Shaun Chapoose, Ute Tribal Business Committee Member and Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition Co-Chair
"The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is united in opposition to the Administration’s Monument Management Plan. This is just another in a series of unlawful actions reducing and revoking the Bears Ears National Monument. The President’s action and this Management Plan eliminates protections for more than 1 million acres including hundreds of thousands of priceless and significant cultural, natural and sacred objects. The Administration is failing in its treaty and trust responsibilities to Indian tribes."

Brian Sybert, Executive Director, Conservation Lands Foundation
“This reckless management plan is an attempt to circumvent the courts, plain and simple. It threatens one of America’s richest cultural landscapes, along with living indigenous cultures tied to it since time immemorial. The destructive plan not only ignores Tribes, it ignores a majority of Americans—both nationwide and in the West—who do not support the reduction of Bears Ears in the first place.” 

Davis Filfred, Board Chairman, Utah Din
é Bikéyah
“The Trump Administration’s final management plan for Bears Ears National Monument is an example of how the federal government continues to ignore Indigenous voices, and the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Pueblo of Zuni, who among many Indigenous governments and peoples, are in a lawsuit challenging the dismantling of Bears Ears National Monument. Our concern, among other things, is that the ROD fails to include proper cultural and environmental protections, and leaves out the voice of Tribes and the elders who hold the most knowledge for these ancestral, public lands.” 

Bill Doelle, President and CEO, Archaeology Southwest
“The final management plan has serious inadequacies that the federal agencies have failed to address. The decision to retain these flaws is particularly insulting to the Tribes who led the effort to establish Bears Ears National Monument. Archaeology Southwest continues to stand with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and our conservation partners in demanding proper management of these lands.”

Paul Edmondson, President and CEO, National Trust for Historic Preservation
“We believe this management plan fails to provide adequate protection for the irreplaceable prehistoric sites and cultural landscapes that led to President Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears National Monument. This management plan was developed on a rushed timetable that did not adequately consider the views of Native American tribes or the public. There is simply no rationale for rushing to complete this plan when litigation challenging the legality of the monument revocation is still pending.” 

Sharon Buccino, Senior Director of Lands, The Natural Resources Defense Council
“These plans are atrocious, and entirely predictable. They are the latest in a series of insults to these magnificent lands by the Trump administration that began when Trump illegally dismantled Bears Ears and Grand Staircase at the behest of corporate interests two years ago. We stand with the five Tribes and the millions of Americas who vigorously oppose this degradation and giveaway of our public lands.”

Theresa Pierno, President and CEO, National Parks Conservation Association
“The administration is illegally gutting protections for Bears Ears, and the repercussions will be felt far beyond the monument’s boundaries. The administration’s reckless management plan sets our worst fears in motion, leaving this treasured monument and surrounding national parks needlessly vulnerable. The new plan puts at risk the very things this site was established to protect, including sacred spaces, adjacent national park landscapes and troves of cultural and scientific resources. Our national monuments and parks are meant to be protected for and enjoyed by all, and we will continue to fight until this landscape is protected as it was intended.”

Phil Hanceford, Conservation Director, The Wilderness Society
“Members of Congress, legal scholars, and more than a dozen groups who have filed lawsuits have made it clear that President Trump’s Executive Order and the use of taxpayer funds that led to these plans was illegal, yet the BLM continues to ignore the law. This is unacceptable. While the BLM may consider this a final decision for the future of public lands in Bears Ears, we will not slow our efforts to protect the cultural, historic, and treasured lands that their plan fails to do.”

Rose Marcario, President and CEO, Patagonia
"The Executive Order eliminating protections for Bears Ears National Monument was illegal and no management plan for these lands should proceed until the resolution of the lawsuits. If this administration’s reckless agenda is not stopped, it will lead to the destruction of a national treasure home to sacred artifacts and an area that enjoys support from hunters and hikers as well as local businesses and communities. And even more troubling, it sets a dangerous precedent for the future of all public lands and waters. These wild and wonderful landscapes should not be auctioned off to the highest bidder, and we have every confidence the courts will rule in favor of the plaintiffs and the original boundaries of the National Monument will be restored."

Tim Peterson, Cultural Landscapes Program Director, The Grand Canyon Trust
“It’s no coincidence that this administration’s terrible plan for Bears Ears comes on the heels of threats to bomb Iran’s cultural sites. While they can’t blow up cliff dwellings or drone strike rock art panels under this plan, the stage is now set to do far-reaching and long-lasting damage to the incomparable Bears Ears cultural landscape. It’s unconscionable.”

Shelley Silbert, Executive Director, Great Old Broads for Wilderness
“The fate of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments must be decided in court before any changes to management occurs. These lands are a treasure trove of natural and cultural history that will suffer serious and irreversible impacts if these management plans are implemented. The process has been conducted illegally and without regard for public input, and the lack of consultation with sovereign tribal nations adds insult to injury.  These lands must be protected now and for the future!”

Carly Ferro, Interim Director, Utah Sierra Club
“The Trump administration’s management plan for Bears Ears is nothing more than a wholesale handout to extractive industry, one that is illegitimate since President Trump illegally shrunk Utah’s monuments to begin with. The administration served a plan that continues to ignore the Tribes of the Bears Ears region and is a disaster for climate. We will fight these illegal rollbacks and continue to support our Tribal allies in defending Bears Ears National Monument.”

Ryan Beam, Public Lands Campaigner, The Center for Biological Diversity
“Trump’s plan erodes vital protections for what’s left of Bears Ears. His illegal evisceration of the national monument is still being fought in court, so it’s appalling that the administration is rushing out a plan to trample the safeguards that remain. We won’t rest until all of this spectacular landscape is protected.”

Neal Clark, Wildlands Program Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
“This management plan represents the lowest common denominator for BLM stewardship of public lands, and sets the stage for destructive chaining of native vegetation, unmanageable recreation, and increased off-road vehicle use. This plan is the fruit of the poisonous tree, stemming as it does from President Trump’s illegal rollback of the original 1.35 million-acre monument, and fails to protect the cultural resources that the monument designation was intended to conserve.”

Jamie Rappaport Clark, President & CEO, Defenders of Wildlife
"The Bears Ears landscape is like none other. It deserves our reverence, but instead the Trump Administration is abandoning the vast majority of the monument to drilling, mining and other destructive uses. Exposing these lands to such irreparable damage is beyond shameful. We will never stop fighting for Bears Ears and for the eagles, elk, owls and all the other wildlife that call it home.”

Erik Molvar, Executive Director, Western Watersheds Project
"Bears Ears deserves the strongest possible protections for its spectacular natural and cultural features. The Trump administration's plan allows livestock grazing, off-road vehicle use, and road construction that will result in the loss or degradation of these priceless and irreplaceable features, so we plan to keep fighting to protect them in court.

Chris Krupp, Public Lands Guardian, WildEarth Guardians
"This management plan, like the declaration gutting Bears Ears, was devised to wring private profit from a national treasure. Interior lawyers know the 2017 declaration is unlikely to survive a court’s review, which makes it all the worse the Trump administration is fast-tracking the new plan.”

Statements Regarding Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument:

Sarah Bauman, Executive Director, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners
"Grand Staircase is essential to our ability to understand the role biodiversity plays in climate change. As a result of its physical isolation and areas of minimal human impact, as well as its enormous ecological diversity, it provides mankind with rare opportunities for unique comparative climate change studies. Without protections, these opportunities will be lost and with them our ability to build essential knowledge and resources for mitigating climate change."

David Polly, President, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology 
"For 25 years Grand Staircase has been America’s top spot for paleontology. Dr. Scott from Dino Train, Lythronax the King of Gore, and the coolest new ceratopsians are all brought to us by Grand Staircase. That’s all been thrown out the window by these cuts."

Brian Sybert, Executive Director, Conservation Lands Foundation
“Grand Staircase was designated more than twenty years ago, and its boundaries were later ratified by Congressional action. This plan is an attempt to further this administration’s reckless push to open treasured, irreplaceable lands to destructive mining and drilling—despite public outcry and before the courts have a chance to weigh in."

Phil Hanceford, Conservation Director, The Wilderness Society 
“Stripping decades worth of protections away from a national monument shows how out of touch the Interior Department is with reality, and the rule of law. The final plans are not worth the wasted taxpayer dollars and legal challenges that are to come.”

Mary O'Brien, Utah Forests Programs Director, Grand Canyon Trust
"There is nothing to be gained from this plan except the destruction of fossils, the expansion of scorched-earth cattle grazing and non-native forage seeding, the loss of dark skies, more roads and unenforced off-road motorization, more extraction from dwindling springs, and more unrecorded wildlife losses - all for what? To show what one president can do to any of our country's national monuments, at any time, for any self-serving political reason?”

Carly Ferro, Interim Director, Utah Sierra Club 
“The bottom line is that the Trump administration acted illegally when it stripped Grand Staircase-Escalante of national monument status. With this plan, Bernhardt’s Interior is clearly trying to let in mining and drilling before a court can overturn the rollbacks. We’ll continue to fight for the protection of Grand Staircase-Escalante—and all of the culture, resources and history this place holds.”

Randi Spivak, Public Lands Program Director, The Center for Biological Diversity
“It’s the height of arrogance for Trump to rush through final decisions on what’s left of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante while we’re fighting his illegal evisceration of these national monuments in court. Trump is eroding vital protections for these spectacular landscapes. We won’t rest until all of these public lands are safeguarded for future generations.”


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About Brian Sybert
Brian Sybert is the Executive Director of the Conservation Lands Foundation.
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