President Trump flew to Utah today to announce plans to drastically reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. The unprecedented move would rip apart land that is invaluable to the Native American tribes who hold the land sacred, will open pristine wilderness to coal mining and energy exploration and will prevent people from visiting the priceless environment that a majority of Americans want protected. Trump announced plans to shrink Bear’s Ears from 1.35 million acres to just 220,000 acres and Grand Staircase-Escalante by half – even more than Utah officials have previously requested.

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“Some people think that the natural resources should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington,” Trump said. “And guess what, they’re wrong.”

Leaked maps obtained by the Wilderness Society reveal that the monuments will be selectively chopped up, which could expose archaeological and sacred Native American sites to destruction. The monuments are also home to diverse plant and animal life, including the endangered desert tortoise, and have been the location of invaluable paleontological discoveries.

Related: Trump signs executive order aimed at eliminating national monuments

“Americans have overwhelmingly spoken out against the Trump Administration’s unprecedented attempt to shut down our national monuments. The Administration’s unlawful actions betray our shared responsibility to protect iconic places for future generations and represent the largest elimination of protected land in American history. We’ve fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we’ll continue that fight in the courts,” said Rose Marcario, President and CEO of Patagonia.

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Thousands of people gathered at the state Capitol on Saturday to protest the move, and again on Monday while Trump was making his announcement in the Capitol building. Tribal leaders and Salt Lake City mayor Jackie Biskupski spoke, calling on Americans to fight for protecting the land.

If you want to help, head to the Bears Ears Coalition, where you can find links to support a lawsuit being brought by the Five Tribes coalition in Utah, made up of representatives from the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Ute Mountain Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe and the Pueblo of Zuni. You can also head to Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance to make your voice heard as Secretary Zinke finalizes plans on the monuments. In addition to the Inter Tribal coallition, Patagonia along with Friends of Cedar Mesa, Utah Dine Bikeyah and Archaeology Southwest are expected to file suite against what they are calling an illegal action by the President.

photos by Kristine Lofgren for Inhabitat

via New York Times

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