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Rep. Ruben Gallego Introduces Bill to Protect Bears Ears National Monument

December 1, 2017
Press Release
President Trump is expected to announce the monument’s downsizing on Monday

WASHINGTON, DC ­– Today, Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) introduced a bill to protect the Bears Ears National Monument from an unprecedented attempt by the Trump administration to downsize and redraw the monument’s boundaries.

Last year, following extensive negotiations with five Native American tribes, President Obama signed Proclamation 9558, which established the Bears Ears National Monument, conserving 1.35 million acres of wilderness and protecting over 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites.

Unfortunately, following a review conducted with no meaningful input from the tribes, the Department of the Interior recommended downsizing the monument – an action that would be without precedent in American history. President Trump is visiting Utah on Monday and is widely expected to announce the redrawing of the monument’s boundaries to effect a drastic decrease in protected land beyond the Interior Department’s recommendation.

Rep. Gallego’s bill would protect the original acreage identified by the tribes as housing culturally sensitive artifacts and sacred lands.

The bill’s 24 original cosponsors include Reps. Ted Lieu (CA-33), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Jared Polis (CO-02), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Darren Soto (FL-09), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Anthony Brown (MD-04), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Lucille Roybal Allard (CA-40), Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Donald McEachin (VA-04), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Don Beyer (VA-08) and Jacky Rosen (NV-03).

The bill has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, Conservation Lands Foundation, Earthjustice, League of Conservation Voters, National Parks Conservation Association, Grand Canyon Trust, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“President Trump’s reckless proposal to slash 85% of this important monument is unprecedented,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego. “Secretary Zinke did not meaningfully consult the tribes during his ‘review,’ and now Trump won’t even visit the sacred tribal sites that he’s planning to dismantle protections for. We can’t allow the Trump administration to sell off America’s natural and cultural heritage to the highest bidder.”

"The Bears Ears National Monument Expansion Act is a model for how we should be protecting special places.  Instead of turning our public lands over to corporate polluters, our country should be protecting the landscape, wildlife, and thousands of sites of spiritual importance within Bears Ears from threats like illegal ATV use, looting, and vandalism. Most importantly, tribes should be able to participate meaningfully in its management and have access to the land for their traditional uses, and the Bears Ears National Monument Expansion Act does just that," said Micheal Brune, Sierra Club's Executive Director.

Scott Miller, The Wilderness Society’s Southwest Regional Director, said, “We applaud Rep. Gallego and the cosponsors of this forward-looking bill to fully protect the Bears Ears region and honor the wishes of the five sovereign tribal nations who have fought for years to protect their ancestral lands and sacred sites. At a time when the President is callously preparing to ignore the outcry of millions of Americans and take illegal action that flies in the face of tribal sovereignty, it’s important to see leaders in Congress like Rep. Gallego moving forward to more fully protect these irreplaceable lands and cultural resources for future generations.”

Sharon Buccino, Director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Lands Program, said, “Bears Ears is one of the nation’s true gems—with dramatic canyons, cliffs, mesas and creeks—and tens of thousands of petroglyphs, granaries and other cultural sites. These treasures need permanent protection from drilling, mining, vandalism and other threats. This bill represents a complete vision of Bears Ears. In protecting the full landscape and all of its cultural resources, we tell the story of the Native Americans who have called this place home for thousands of years – and give them a voice in the management of their sacred heritage.”

“Rep. Gallego’s bill would ensure that the cultural resources and sacred sites at Bears Ears National Monument remain protected and prevent reckless attempts to open Bears Ears or any other park or monument to fossil fuel interests,” said Arian Rubio, Lands Legislative Associate at the League of Conservation Voters. “The Trump administration may try to dismiss the millions of public comments in support of protecting parks and monuments, but we’re proud to stand with strong advocates like Rep. Gallego and fight for the majority of people in this country who want to keep public lands and waters protected for future generations.”

David Nimkin, Southwest Senior Regional Director for National Parks Conservation Association, said, “Our national parks and monuments protect some of our country’s most important places and belong to all of us. Bears Ears connects and protects the larger national park landscape that includes Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Natural Bridges National Monument and Canyonlands National Park and is part of the ancestral homelands of many tribal communities.  Congressman Gallego’s bill honors the interests of these communities and rightfully expands protections to more fully protect the remarkable natural and cultural resources found here.”

Scott Groene, the Executive Director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said, “The boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument were always just the first step, protecting less than what the tribes requested or what the landscape deserved. Rep. Gallego’s commitment to finishing the job by safeguarding the entirety of the Bears Ears cultural landscape is a demonstration of true leadership that stands in stark contrast to President Trump’s reckless efforts to slash protections for an irreplaceable landscape that holds deep significance."

"We are very grateful to President Obama for the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument he designated in 2016, but his attempt to satisfy local non-Native interests by reducing our proposal by half a million acres has proven fruitless," said Carleton Bowekaty, Pueblo of Zuni Councilman. "Now, as our president prepares to dramatically and irresponsibly shrink the existing Bears Ears National Monument, we are delighted that Congressman Gallego has introduced a bill that would fulfill our original vision for the Bears Ears cultural landscape."

"The 1.9 million acre boundary we originally proposed President Obama designate under the Antiquities Act is filled edge-to-edge with sacred sites important to our Tribal members," said Davis Filfred, Navajo Nation Council Delegate. "Representative Gallego's new bill would protect many significant cultural sites and objects that failed to gain needed protections in 2016."

"We are thankful that Representative Gallego approached us to help us protect all of what we have worked for these many years," said Shaun Chapoose, member of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee. "Unlike President Trump and Secretary Zinke, Representative Gallego is doing what the rest of the federal government ought to be doing - honoring the government-to-government relationship and the trust and treaty obligations the United States shares with our Tribes."