University of Utah students voice their opinion on Bears Ears

By Courtney Ruttan

April 16, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah civilians have been up in arms on President Trump’s decision to shrink national monuments. Bears Ears, one of the most affected in this matter, is home to several of Utah’s native tribes and most beautiful landmarks. Moreover, the land contains a history, artifacts, and archeological wonders.

    In 2014, President Barack Obama issued an executive order to create a 1.3 million-acre national monument in Utah land known as Bears Ears. He not only protected this land for its natural beauty but to protect the native tribes that inhabit the land as well.  These tribes include the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, and Zuni. Several Utahn’s were very pleased to see that this land was going to be protected — however, some believed that protecting the land was getting out of control.

    In 2017, President Donald Trump announced plans to reduce Bears Ears by 85%. In a recent New York Times article, “Bears Ears National Monument Is Shrinking. Here’s What Is Being Cut,” “Bears Ears has attracted controversy since President Obama announced in December 2016 that he would protect the 1.35 million-acre site in southeastern Utah as a national monument.”

    People travel all around the world to see everything Utah has to offer. President Trump issued a reevaluation on all National Monuments created since 1996 in search of land with unused resources. Trump has chosen Bears Ears specifically for mining and drilling of oil. Protests all over the state broke out including protests on the University of Utah campus.

    According to the article, “Trump was greeted by thousands of Utah protesters, some who blocked downtown Salt Lake City streets and faced off with police dressed in riot gear,” by the Salt Lake Tribune, “before President Donald Trump even arrived in Salt Lake City, he had a crowd waiting to tell him he’d be wrong to revise the boundaries of two national monuments in southern Utah.” The article continues, “Hundreds of people soon became thousands at the footsteps of the Capitol, most decrying the anticipated announcement that Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments would be drastically shrunken and broken into parts.”

    Sydney Hess is a recent graduate of the University of Utah and is upset with the decisions Trump is making. “I believe the land needs to be protected,” Hess says, “it is not the government’s place to take away the land for mining.”  A self-described lover of all things Utah, she enjoys traveling to the national parks, including hiking, camping, and exploring the outdoors. “Bears Ears needs to be protected. President Trump needs to look into the future,” she says.

    Dalton Hughes, a current student at the University of Utah is displeased with President Trump’s decision.  “While Donald Trump is creating a great number of jobs like he said he would, these jobs are not worth taking away Utah land. Hughes believes that we do not need the oil that can be drilled for within the land. “There are several other locations for mining and the land that contains Bears Ears needs to be protected.” Hughes is not originally from Utah; his family made the decision to move here for all the beauty Utah has to offer.

    Mat Christensen, another former graduate of the University of Utah, is not afraid to fight for what he believes is right. Mat has attended several protests in honor of protecting the Bears Ears Monument. “Everyone needs to educate themselves and take a stance on the matter. It is time we find the alternative to oil so we don’t need to drill into the land. Instead of drilling, polluting, and destroying this earth, it is time that we start to clean it up,” Christensen said.

    Utah continues to fight for the Bears Ears land. As of February 2018, the courts are in great debate over the issue. The Trump Administration is putting in a great effort to transfer the case to Utah courts. Until then, the NARF (Native Americans Right Fund) is continuing to surveillance the land ensuring there’s not detrimental damage to the land. On February 16, the courts put a public comment process into effect.  Residents of the Bears Ears boundary are very supportive for an expansion of their protected land but very opposed to taking away land.

    The public comment process period is coming to a close with less than one week left. Federal land managers have begun drawing up new land boundaries for this area. However, the case is not settled. Several issues related to reducing the size of National monuments include economic impact, culture history, science, and law. The government still has to undergo several obstacles before Utah may lose a great deal of protected land. The Trump administration continues to hold several meetings regarding this issue. University of Utah students, Native Americans, and Utahan’s alike will continue to fight for the protection of this sacred land. 

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