Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 9, 2018

Contact:  Randi Spivak, (310) 779-4894,

Republicans Advance Bill to Eliminate Bears Ears National Monument

WASHINGTON— The House Natural Resources Committee will consider legislation today to eliminate Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and create two smaller monuments. H.R. 4532, sponsored by Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), mirrors President Trump’s illegal executive order from December that rescinded the monument and gutted protections for more than 1 million acres of protected public land.

The bill would erase the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, established by President Obama in 2016 following years of stakeholder and public input, and create two small monuments: Shash Jáa (211,983 acres) and Indian Creek (86,447 acres). One million acres would be opened to destructive resource-extraction activities, including uranium mining and oil and gas drilling.

“Curtis has no regard for the 2.7 million Americans who urged the Trump administration to keep our national monuments intact,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Like other extreme, anti-public lands Republicans, Curtis is looking out for the profits of special interests that want to exploit and destroy our beautiful wild places.”

The legislation would create a tribal management council for Shash Jáa that excludes three of the five tribes that advocated for protection of Bears Ears. The Indian Creek tribal management council would include state and local officials and allow only one Utah tribal member. The bill also allows the same local elected officials that sought to undo Bears Ears to select the members of the new management councils.

“This bill claims to give a voice to native people, but these tribal management councils are a sham,” said Spivak. “The bill goes even further than Trump’s executive order by shifting management of federal public lands to local officials in Utah. These are the same politicians who agitated to eliminate protections for Bears Ears National Monument in the first place.”

In 2016 President Obama, using the Antiquities Act, created the Bears Ears National Monument to protect some of the most culturally important heritage sites and landscapes in our nation. The 1906 Antiquities Act grants the president the authority to create national monuments on federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural, historic or scientific features. The Antiquities Act does not grant authority to presidents to diminish or rescind the monument designations.

In an unprecedented step, Trump issued a proclamation Dec. 4 to rescind Bears Ears National Monument. American Indian tribes immediately challenged the executive proclamation as an abuse of presidential power and a violation of the law, and conservation organizations, including the Center, filed suit a few days later. Trump also ordered nearly 900,000 acres slashed from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. The Center, tribes and other conservation organizations have also challenged this action in court. 

The moves to eviscerate these monuments are part of a larger attack on public lands by Trump and members of Congress who want to slash protections and allow more oil and gas drilling, mining, logging and other industrial uses.

In 2017 Republicans introduced more than 85 bills that attacked public lands, weaken environmental safeguards on those lands or turn over control to states and local governments. These attacks come despite the fact that the vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments and other public lands and waters.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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