Bears Ears

Bears Ears Cedar-mesa_Monument
Cedar Mesa Monument, Public Domain (BLM)

Bears Ears is a place of power. Anyone who has walked this erosional landscape of buttes and mesas and experienced the embrace of red rock canyons animated by the handprints of the ancient ones carefully placed on sandstone walls rising upward to a starlit sky cannot stand by and be witness to its demise by those who care only for what the land can produce, the real estate that can be sold, or the commodity it can become.
From Utah’s Red Rock Desert, A Call for Protecting Our Public Lands, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (Yale Environment 360), February 26, 2018 by Terry Tempest Williams

Let’s Gut the Weather Service!


After a year of devastating hurricanes, weather-induced wildfires, and widespread drought the Trump administration’s budget proposes an eight percent drop in the NWS budget. Where will we get our forecasts from, for-profit commercial providers? Keep in mind that Accuweather, The Weather Channel, etc. were not the entities that launched the next generation weather satellite systems.

Fresh on the heels of the costliest year on record for weather disasters, with economic damages exceeding $300 billion in the United States, the Trump administration has proposed cutting the National Weather Service’s budget by about 8 percent. It also recommends eliminating 355 jobs at the agency, including 248 forecasting positions.


Additional proposed cuts at the Weather Service, part of the overall $75 million reduction, include:

  • A $15 million cut in the surface and marine observations program, which includes data points that provide information on ocean cycles such as El Nino.
  • An $11 million cut to the agency’s tsunami warning program.
  • A $14 million cut to its science and technology integration activities, which would decrease investments in weather and water modeling and some supporting evaluation.

Trump administration proposes 8 percent budget cut at National Weather Service, reduction in staff, The Washington Post, by Jason Samenow, February 12, 2018.

Bears Ears Open for Drilling

Bears Ears 2
Bears Ears, Cedar Mesa. Public Domain, US Bureau of Land Management

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

Energy and Telecomm Industries Get a Break, Again

American Bald Eagle (cc) 2016 by Lee Jay Fingersh / NREL

The Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks have sparked a lot of outrage. But one recent action by the Interior Department drew unprecedented protest from a bipartisan group of top officials who go all the way back to the Nixon administration: a new legal opinion that attempts to legalize the unintentional killing of most migratory birds.

Under the new interpretation, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act forbids only intentional killing – such as hunting or killing birds to get their feathers – without a permit. The administration will no longer apply the act to industries that inadvertently kill a lot of birds through oil drilling, wind power and communications towers. Critics fear that these industries might now end the bird-friendly practices that save large numbers of birds.
Interior Cancels Decades-Old Protections for Migratory Birds, High Country News, January 26, 2018, by Elizabeth Shogren

How Much Land Did He Take?

(cc) Mike McGlew Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

If fossil fuels are the Holy Grail for the Trump administration—and his emphasis on “energy dominance” suggests they are—there is far more at stake than the 2 million acres the president rescinded from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante’s monument designations. More than 120 million acres of protected land—larger than the state of California—are situated over rich reserves of oil, coal, and gas … Now We Finally Know How Much Federal Land Could Be at Stake in Trump’s Rush for More Drilling, Mother Jones, December 5, 2017 by Rebecca Leber


Leber’s article includes an interactive map that shows:

  • Federally Protected Land
  • Coal Fields
  • Oil and Gas Fields
  • Oil and Gas Basins

for the entire United States. It’s quite an amazing map that can be zoomed into the local level. It would not surprise me if the reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is just the first of many more attempts to grab undeveloped, protected lands with fossil fuel “resources.”

If you wish to make a donation to support the litigation that has already begun, please consider these worthy groups: