Well, he did what he promised. President Trump gutted Bears Ears and Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monuments. Trump decreased both Utah National Monuments by 2-million acres by executive order at the Utah State Capitol. In addition, both monuments have been split into smaller versions.
Bears Ears National Monument was reduced by 85% from 1.35 million acres to 202,000 acres. What’s left is split into the Indian Creek and Shash Jaa National Monuments.
Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument was reduced by about half from 1.9 million acres to 1 million acres. That monument will become three – Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits and Escalante Canyons.
Breakdown of new/modified Utah national monuments
At 129,980 acres Shash Jaa (Bears Ears in Navajo) includes Bears Ears Buttes, which is held sacred by Native American tribes. Mule and Arch canyons are also included. Both canyons are home to many ancient Ancestral Puebloan ruins, including the House on Fire ruin. In addition, Shash Jaa includes Comb Ridge, as well as the Doll House and Moon House ruins, both of which are not connected to the monument proper.
Trump’s proclamation states: “Five-hundred feet deep, 5 miles long, and decorated with alternating layers of red and white sandstone, these 2 striking canyons contain shelter-cliff dwellings and other archaeological sites, including the scenic and accessible House on Fire Ruin, which includes differing masonry styles that indicate several episodes of construction and use.”
Indian Creek National Monument
Home to world-class rock climbing, Indian Creek is a 71,896 acre monument carved out of the former Bears Ears. Located between SR 211 and Canyonlands National Park, Indian Creek includes Dugout Ranch, Six Shooter Peaks, and rock art sites like Newspaper Rock and Shay Canyon.
Trump’s proclamation states: “This site displays a significant concentration of rock art from multiple periods, etched into Wingate sandstone. Dinosaur tracks in the bottom of the Shay Canyon stream bed are a unique visual reminder of the area’s distant past. Additional paleontological resources can be found throughout the Indian Creek area, including vertebrate and invertebrate fossils, primarily in the Chinle Formation.”
Escalante Canyons National Monument
Located east of the town of Escalante and south of Boulder, this smaller monument encompasses the famed slot canyons along the Hole-in-the-Rock Road (leaving out the road itself.) The 130-foot-tall Escalante Natural Bridge is also included as well as the popular Lower Calf Creek Falls.
Trump’s proclimation reads: “This area boasts Calf Creek Canyon, a canyon of red alcoved walls with expanses of white slickrock that is named for its use as a natural cattle pen at the end of the 19th century. To the east of the Canyonlands, Circle Cliffs is a breached anticline with spectacular painted-desert scenery, the result of exposed sedimentary rocks of the Triassic Chinle and Moenkopi formations.”
Kaiparowits National Monument
Kaiparowits National Monument includes Grosvenor Arch, Hackberry Canyon, the Cockscomb and the old Paria townsite. The area is also home to sedimentary rock formations that contain unbroken record of fossils spanning 30 million years of the Late Cretaceous Era, including dinosaurs. Upper Paria Canyon and the Straight Cliffs are geologic wonders found within the monument. The new monument also has three satellite sections.Notable is Dance Hall Rock, a historic site for Mormon Pioneers who traveled the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. There are also two blocks of land just north of Highway 89, though it isn unclear what significance these tracts of land have.
Trump’s proclamation reads: “The Kaiparowits area is dominated by a dissected mesa that rises thousands of feet above the surrounding terrain. These vast, rugged badlands are characterized by towering cliffs and escarpments that expose tiers of fossil-rich formations. In addition to striking scenery, the area is world-renowned for rich fossil resources, including 16 species that have been found nowhere else. The plateau is considered one of the best, most continuous records of Late Cretaceous life in the world.”
Grand Staircase National Monument
Finally, Grand Staircase National Monument, located northeast of the town of Kanab, includes the White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs, and numerous archaeology sites.
Trump’s proclamation reads: “The Grand Staircase area is named for one of the iconic landscapes in the American West. An unbroken sequence of cliffs and plateaus, considered to be the most colorful exposed geologic section in the world, has inspired wonder in visitors since the days of early western explorers.The White Cliffs that rise more than 1,500 feet from the desert floor are the hardened remains of the largest sand sea that ever existed. The deep red Vermilion Cliffs, once the eastern shore of the ancient Lake Dixie, contain a rich fossil record from the Late Triassic period to the early Jurassic period, including petrified wood, fish, dinosaur, and other reptilian bones.”
Opposition is strong
While the Utah state government and vocal southern Utah residents cheered the President’s decision, thousands gathered outside the Capitol building in opposition. Numerous environmental and recreation groups promised to file lawsuits.
According to Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Executive Director Scott Groene, Trump’s proclamation was an attack on America’s public lands. “It is certain that the legacies of both President Trump, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who goaded him into this despicable act, will be forever tainted by their assault on more than two million acres of Utah’s wild lands that are beloved by the American public,” Groene says in a statement. “SUWA is committed to defending these monuments in court, and confident that today’s political action will be overturned. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments will be restored to their full glory, and President Trump’s action today will be remembered as another failed attempt to thwart the will of the American people, who want these lands to remain protected.”
Leaders of the five native tribes that advocated for creation of the Bears Ears National Monument also expressed indignation over President Trump’s move. “President Trump’s illegal action is a shameful attack on Tribes, and it will not stand,” stated Carleton Bowekaty, Zuni councilman. “The President’s action is without legal authority and without respect for the Native Americans that worked for decades to protect these resources. His proposal is a strong statement to Tribes across the nation that Native American values and interests are not important to the Trump administration.”
You can read Trump’s full proclamation on the Salt Lake Tribune’s website.