Letter to the Editor

A national monument dismantled

Monday, September 17, 2018

President Theodore Roosevelt, in a speech on May 6, 1903, stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon and said “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it”. On June 8, 1906, U.S. representative from Iowa, John F. Lacey sponsored the Antiquities Act, an “Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities.” Using the powers given him by the Act, President Barak Obama established the Bears Ears National Monument located in Southern Utah in December 2016.

There were over 100,000 archaeological sites protected within this monument. A succession of Native American peoples dating back 11 centuries occupied this site. By the year 1250 AD, with a population of 30,000, this location was one of the most populated locations in North America. A succession of droughts caused the virtual emptying of the area, leaving it unoccupied. Several Native American tribes trace their ancestors to this location and consider the site sacred for the trove of ancestral culture artifacts found here..

On Dec. 4, 2017, President Trump reduced the size of the 1,351,849-acre monument by 85 percent. Why? There are a couple of theories. A Canadian company named Energy Fuels lobbied Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for the right to mine uranium which had been found to exist at the site. When the Trump administration redrew the monument map, it seemed apparent that a Canadian uranium company had more influence with this “America First” government than a coalition of America’s first people. A second theory is President Trump’s desire to erase all things Obama. Both may be true. Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is now also endangered by considerations of opening it to drilling for oil.

Considering all the misdeeds of President Trump, this probably does not rank at the top when you count separating children from their parents or support for white nationalist groups, but it does show a pattern of lack of knowledge and concern.

(Credit to Sierra Magazine — October 2018 for background information.)

Robert Sneitzer, Spirit Lake