BLM Plan would Strip Protections from Bears Ears National Monument; Western Watersheds Project among numerous conservationists opposing new plan
For Immediate Release
November 16, 2018
Laura Welp, Western Watersheds Project, (435) 899-0204
KANAB, Utah — As the public comment period closes today on a new management plan for the severely-reduced Bears Ears National Monument, Western Watersheds Project has submitted comments seeking to limit the damage from livestock grazing, mining, oil and gas development, and other activities that threaten the fragile desert ecosystems and irreplaceable cultural sites across this spectacular landscape. The Monument was designated in 2016 after a years-long collaboration by multiple stakeholders and months of public comment and hearings throughout the West.
“Bears Ears National Monument was the result of a unique grassroots collaboration of five sovereign tribes that came together to protect sacred lands,” said Laura Welp of Western Watersheds Project, a former BLM botanist at Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. “Rather than honor this commitment, the Monument boundaries were slashed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Donald Trump, leaving only 16% of the original landscape in Monument status, and now their new plan for the remainder prioritizes commercial exploitation over preservation.”
Western Watersheds Project is one of eight conservation plaintiffs suing to overturn the gutting of Bears Ears National Monument. Recent internal BLM documents shown that the impetus for this drastic action was to enable oil and gas industry to operate unfettered by concerns for the conservation of irreplaceable natural and cultural resources. Now the public is having its say about how the fragments of the reduced Monument will be managed, and WWP expects thousands of public comments calling for increased and expanded protections.
“The preferred alternative is almost an act of revenge by Utah politicians, handed as a gift to the outgoing Senator Orrin Hatch by the Trump administration,” said Welp. “The BLM should halt this process, withdraw their plan, and wait for the courts to rule on the legality of this process.”
Scientists, recreationists, local businesses and residents, tribes, and conservation groups throughout the country wrote to ask the BLM to retain the original Monument boundary and protections in its management plan. It is apparent from the resulting document, however, that the BLM considered none of them. The process was a rush job with a political agenda and the plan reflects the lack of analysis and thought necessary for a document that will guide management on these lands for decades. The plan opens up the Monument to extractive industries such as grazing, logging, and mining and reduces protections for the natural and cultural resources the Monument was designed to protect. The alternative the BLM is proposing to adopt actually reduces resource protections below that of typical, non-monument BLM lands.