President Trump will announce Monday his decision on shrinking Bears Ears National Monument. We cannot accept the shrinking of any national monument, as this will set a dangerous precedent, and could put into motion a waterfall of regrettable events that could eliminate access to stunningly beautiful and historic public lands. There has never been a president that has reduced the size of a national monument under the Antiquities Act, and this would be a violation of the Antiquities Act, a slap in the face of the native tribes involved in the fight for Bears Ears, as well as an irreversible disintegration of our shared values of public land access. Bears Ears – 1,351,849 acres controlled by BLM, and USFS – our land, preserved for as a legacy to share with future generations. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you have not laid your eyes upon this land, do nothing else until you view several photos and read about what is sacred there. There are 35,000 documented sacred native historical dwelling and spiritual sites, and possibly as much as 100,000 undocumented wonders. Five local Native American tribes are working together to protect this land for all of us to cherish and understand.… Pueblo, Navajo, Hopi, Ute, and Ouray tribes. It would be a travesty to shrink any portion of Bears Ears and lose any more historical artifacts and ancient ruins which define the very purpose of our country – to share land that is not just about one individual or company’s prosperity, but to preserve our past so we can celebrate our future. There is evidence of 10,000 years of Native American residence – longer than any current American community or neighborhood, and up to 3000 years of settlement communities. Bears Ears is also connected to other important sites such as Mesa Verde, Escalante, Canyon Lands, and Arches, where millions of visitors flock each year and support the parks, the land, and the local economies – families like yours and mine.
What an incredible loss it would be if these lands were disparaged for the short-term financial gain of one or two corporate entities, profiting from actions facilitated by a government that is more interested in the progress of a few than the preservation of lands for many to explore and enjoy now and in the future. The American people cannot allow this to happen as we are unique in the world for our values to protect shared public lands for each other’s benefit. There are areas in Montana, such as Missouri Breaks National Monument, which was considered for downsizing, yet another example of the unacceptable encroachment of our rights to explore and appreciate the wondrous landscape and culture of our country in exchange for short-term gain. Please stand up for your American heritage and fight this encroachment on your rights as a public landowner.
John Salazar is a Montanan, father, hunter, conservationist, and resident of Livingston. This piece by John originally ran in the Livingston Enterprise and Billings Gazette.