When Donald Trump attempted to drastically shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments late last year, he didn’t just gut the boundaries of the popular monuments. He set a date after which lands cut from the monuments (absent other restrictions) are open to new mining and fossil fuel drilling.
That date was February 2, 2018, and Bears Ears and Grand Staircase are now open for business — the extraction business. There are some restrictions in limited areas that prohibit mining and drilling, like wilderness study areas and the Valley of the Gods Area of Critical Environmental Concern in the areas cut from the original Bears Ears National Monument, but this doesn’t mean the entirety of the monuments are safe from destructive energy extraction.
Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Open for Business, Grand Canyon Trust, February 7,
2018 by Tim Peterson, Utah Wildlands Program Director
May this be true:
A controversial decision weeks earlier by President Donald Trump had shrunk the size of two national monuments — known as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante — by hundreds of thousands of acres, enraging environmentalists and American Indian groups who feared a stampede of mine and oil wildcatters would rush in and destroy the area’s sandstone vistas, historic rock carvings and artifacts. And yet, five days in, not only has there been no stampede, but no one has shown up at all.
The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining says it hasn’t received a single permit application for plots in the areas. That may not ease the angst in the activist community any but it does highlight a couple of key elements to the dispute: While the remote region contains several minerals as well as oil and gas, the logistics of moving material in and out are tricky, and the only resource that has the real potential of luring explorers is uranium. But uranium prices are depressed, having plunged more than 80 percent since 2007 and squelched interest in opening new mines.
All of which means that, for now at least, the Trump administration’s scaling back of the monuments feels more like a symbolic political statement than anything else.
Bears Ears Is Open for Mining But No One Bothered to Show Up, Bloomberg, February 7, 2018 by Joe Deaux