In what’s shaping up to be the biggest rollback of conservation protections in the nation’s history, President Trump announced earlier this week that he was signing executive orders to revoke federal protections on tens of millions of acres within national monuments in Utah (Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears), Oregon (Cascade-Siskiyou), Nevada (Gold Butte), Maine (Katahdin Woods and Waters) and New Mexico (Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument), as well as offshore (Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic and Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll in the Pacific). Undoing decades of work by conservationists to protect these vital wildlife habitats and ecological hotspots, the Trump administration is once again going against the will of the vast majority of Americans in order to help his big business cronies cash in on the development and resource extraction rush sure to ensue on these freshly opened wild lands.
Of course, progressives are already striking back. A coalition of ten conservation groups — the Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council — filed suit against Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Bureau of Land Management Director Brian Steed through the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice (donate here…) claiming that Trump doesn’t have the legal authority to revoke national monument status at any or all of the monuments in question. Meanwhile, five Native American tribes — Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and Ute Indian —have banded together to file a separate suit regarding the Bears Ears cuts that also questions the White House’s authority to overturn previous national monument designations.
Meanwhile, outdoor gear retailers are joining the fight using their voice to alert millions of American customers to the assault on beloved public lands. Since last Monday — when Trump announced the new executive orders — Patagonia‘s home page isn’t shilling fleece and beanies but instead says: “The President Stole Your Land: In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.” Clicking on the “learn more” link below this stark black and white lead-in leads go a page with overview maps of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante including how much of each is slated to be cut out of protected status. Then below that users can sign-up to automatically tweet about the cause, and can donate money directly to groups fighting the Trump administration’s “land grab.”
The Trump administration has already tried to back us out of our Paris climate accord commitments and undo Obama’s landmark Clean Power Plan; now the wild places of our own homeland are in the chopping block, for sale to the highest corporate bidder and ripe for ripping apart to access natural resources we don’t really need. If you haven’t already joined the fight for nature, there’s no time like the present…