Trump misinterprets the law and announces the reduction of two National Monuments
The president has paraphrased the Antiquities Act (1906) at his convenience to reduce the size of two national monuments and grant permission for the exploitation of the lands.
For anyone unfamiliar with US political history, listening to President Trump is a parallel reality professional course.
During Monday’s afternoon, the president gave a speech at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City in which he announced the reduction of two national natural monuments in half, arguing that the previous administrations - read, Clinton and Obama - would have " overreached the Antiquities Act" by isolating large areas from mining production and other economic activities.
The presidential proclamations would reduce the Bears Ears Monument by 80% and the Grand Staircase-Escalante by 45%, in what will be known as the largest elimination of public land protection in US history, according to The Guardian.
"Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington," the president said. "And guess what? They’re wrong".
Trump's cure for these federal "overreach" is worse than the disease itself: it won’t be the families and communities of Utah who will take advantage of their land, but the large corporations of oil and gas, putting at risk large reserves of historical heritage.
The Antiquities Act was approved by Congress and signed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, giving the American ruler the authority to create monuments on federal lands and protect important natural, cultural or scientific features. Its initial function was to protect the prehistoric ruins of Native Americans located in the federal lands in the West - such as Chaco Canyon, Devils Tower or Father Millet Cross - in an attempt to preserve the country's historical heritage.
On April 26 of this year, President Trump signed an executive order to revise this law and subsequently modify it, backing his decision on the promise of increasing economic production in the country.
"With the action I’m taking today, we will not only give back your voice over the use of this land, we will also restore your access and your enjoyment," the president said. "Public lands will once again be for public use because we know that people who are free to use and enjoy their land are the people most determined to conserve their land.”
But the ability to "conserve" the land when it comes to mining and exploitation is quite confusing. The president blames previous administrations for reserving power over the federal lands to a few and proposes to give a few others the ability to exploit monuments that represent the history of the entire nation.
Even when the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke - who has spearheaded the proposal for the reformation of the monuments - has assured that the case of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is not a matter of energy (as there is no oil or gas in Bears Ears), organizations like the Center for Biological Diversity have reported for years the presence of up to 12 abandoned mines between the monuments, as well as the production of gas and oil on the northern and eastern borders of the territory in question.
The Center has not wasted time and has organized a public lawsuit against the president for abuse of power and for the environmental risk that this measure could entail.
Research teams at MIT such as Mission 2016 - which carry out the development of action plans for renewable technologies and the preservation of the environment - explain that the damages caused by operations such as mining, which includes poisoning by minerals such as Asbestos, the contamination of water by waste, exposure to mercury and the severe impact on vegetation by exploitation, are irreparable and directly attack the flora and fauna, especially those in danger of extinction.
Also, the danger that this would entail for the heritage of the native tribes is imminent. The Navajo, Hopi, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Mountain, and Ute Indians Tribes, consider the land of Bears Ears sacred, and that is why they fought for years to create the monument. According to Natalie Landreth, a lawyer with the Native American Rights Fund, the new law will be fought even harder.
This fight has been joined by several spokesmen of the Democratic Party, including Raul Grijalva of the House of Representatives and member of the Committee of Natural Resources. Grijalva assured that "this order to destroy our national monuments is as legally sound as the Muslim ban. Mr. Trump seems to take perverse joy in ignoring federal law and dismissing the wishes of Native American tribes, conservation leaders and millions of everyday Americans."