Zinke Defends Bears Ears Decision, Tribal Nations Sue

Published: Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 3:01pm
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
The land surrounding the twin buttes that make up Bears Ears is considered a place of healing, a sacred place to several tribes in the Southwest.

President Donald Trump this week shrunk the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by 85 percent of its original size. Several Southwest tribal nations that consider the area sacred are suing the government.

The Navajo Nation joined four other tribes saying Trump’s actions are a violation of the Antiquities Act and are unconstitutional.

Bears Ears will now be roughly 220,000 acres after a review of two dozen national monuments by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

The administration said the Act allows it to protect a smaller portion of the monument.

Zinke, in a press call Tuesday, said shrinking Bears Ears won’t harm significant sacred areas.

“There are primarily objects of cultural significance to the local tribes," he said. "Those objects were identified in concert with the state natural resources experts.”

The Navajo Nation said the president did not take into account adequate tribal consultation before the decision.

Zinke said the decision was legal under the Antiquities Act.

“The objects could be identified, they could be segregated, and the revised boundaries, still, are larger than Bryce Canyon and Zion combined. The president was absolutely right in asking for a review.”

Navajo officials said the decision came after tribal leaders expressed for months their opposition to the Bears Ears proposal.

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