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The Signpost Newsletter
First Quarter 2018
DJT Slashes National Monuments
Trims Smokey the Bear’s Ears
We had always thought that “protected lands” set aside for public enjoyment as parks, preserves, historic sites or monuments were permanently protected. Apparently not so much.
In reducing two national monuments by a total of two millions acres in December 2017, President Donald Trump may have pleased smaller government and business proponents in Utah — but touched off what promises to be a furious court fight over whether he overstepped his presidential authority. His opponents include many of the country's most powerful environmental groups and five Native American tribes.
Trump's unprecedented action sharply reduced, reconfigured and renamed the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in southern Utah. A total of 3.25 million acres that had been protected by monument status were reduced to 1.23 million acres.
The president said his action was designed to reduce a massive overreach by previous Democratic presidents and to return more control over the rugged, sparsely populated region to locals. His administration has argued that plenty of other protections still exist to prevent misuse of what are some of the West’s last great open spaces.
Opponents, however, say the reduction would open irreplaceable sandstone canyons, red rock monoliths, sacred Native American lands and forested highlands to incursions by oil and gas drillers, coal and uranium miners and to a flood of off road vehicles. Two other lawsuits, by a total of 13 environmental organizations, have also been filed to block the redrawing of the Grand Staircase-Escalante, an action that reduced the monument from 1.9 million acres to just over 1 million acres.
Managing the Resource
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A few years back, while working with the Nevada Division of Forestry on a vegetation management plan for Galena Creek Regional Park, it was decided that several areas of the park required thinning to reduce the number of trees-per-acre to increase drought resistance. It would require the removal of most of the built-up fuels in the understory, as well as any dead or dying hazard trees.
Several species of bark beetle and pine mistletoe have taken a toll on the Jeffery pines throughout the entire forest. White firs are very abundant, as they like to grow under the canopy, sheltered by the surrounding pines. However, they can take on an almost invasive quality, depleting water resources quickly.
They are also a highly flammable ladder fuel that poses a threat to the Jeffery pines. This meant that dense swaths of white fir would need to be eliminated for the new strategy to be effective. (continued on Page 8)
Trump cited “past administrations” as having “severely abused the purpose and spirit and intent of a centuries-old law known as the Antiquities Act.” That act, signed in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt, gives presidents the unilateral power to protect public lands — but nowhere does it grant the president power to reduce or remove previous designations. On these grounds, several environmental and Native American groups promise to bring lawsuits to stop this precedent-setting action by the Trump administration.
Hopefully reasonable members of the public will realize what is currently happening to our protected federal lands and speak out. In our professional opinion, this action is literally like cutting off one of Smokey the Bear’s ears!