WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing funding for the Interior Department, called Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s recommendations to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument “deeply disrespectful and insulting” to the Native American Tribes who urged protection for the culturally significant region. Udall predicted that if the administration acts on the recommendations and attempts to alter the size of the monument, the decision will be challenged in court.
He issued the following statement:
“Bears Ears National Monument is the result of years of work by Tribal members and stakeholders to conserve this gorgeous country and offer urgently needed protection for over 100,000 Native American and Mormon cultural and archaeological sites from looting and grave robbing. Secretary Zinke’s interim recommendations – and the lack of transparency leading up to this point – are deeply disrespectful and insulting. The recommendations in his report put this culturally important region at risk. And they ignore the years of community engagement, the voices of Tribal members and the million-plus Americans who wrote in to support the designation, and the cultural and economic significance of Bears Ears to the surrounding communities. It makes no sense that this administration would end protections that are increasing the economic well-being of the region.
“I will be keeping the pressure on this administration. I do not believe that President Trump has the legal authority to rescind or shrink a monument, and if the administration moves forward with that plan, it will be challenged in court. And if President Trump asks Congress to put this region at risk by reducing the amount of protection, I will fight him every step of the way.
“On the campaign trail, the president pledged to carry on the conservationist legacy of Teddy Roosevelt. But this review violates that legacy. It is a political move that will waste limited resources, hurt business and jobs, and unnecessarily add uncertainty for the community. And it’s part of a larger effort by the Trump administration to privatize public lands and help big polluters. Our communities – and the next generation – will pay the price. I won’t stand by and let the Trump administration try to open the door to selling our public lands off to the highest bidder.”