Opinion: Bears Ears should remain a National Monument

Something’s rotten in the State of Utah. More specifically, something’s rotten in Utah’s legislature. A resolution was proposed during the 2017 General Session to ask President Trump to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument; the bill recently passed in the senate, with twenty-two senators for and only a paltry six against.

The bill points to the fact that “every member of Utah's congressional delegation publically opposed the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.”

A little history:

The Utah Congressional delegation, made up of four representatives and two senators–all Republicans–had issued a joint statement dripping with emotion and concern for the Utahans they claim to represent a year ago. Federal management of the land was condemned, along with the alleged “special-interest groups” statewide and outside Utah blamed for supporting the national government’s efforts to protect the 1.35 million acres of public land. Given the fact that the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the various Utah tribes grouped around the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition issued a spate of resolutions supporting Obama’s move to protect the land, the “special-interest groups” that the joint statement signaled out clearly meant the NCAI and Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Uintah, Ouray Ute, and Ute Mountain Tribes.

Actual special-interest groups in the form of energy companies are bent on acquiring these 1.35 million acres for exploitation. State officials have in the past allowed public land in San Juan County to be exploited, desecrated, completely ravaged in the mad search for oil, with only a few producing wells actually having been found. Utah’s Congressional delegation’s support for State oversight of the 1.35 million acres undoubtedly benefits these economic vultures, and not the people of Utah.

It is true that, according to the bill, the San Juan County commission and city council is firmly behind the rescinding of the Bears Ears National Monument; however, it is only half of the truth.

The other half left out of the narrative is the fact that the county commission and city council are predominately white, racist, and Republican. For years, Native Americans have been kept out of elected institutions in the county, their collective will to defend their heritage ignored. Since 1957, when Native Americans were granted the right to vote in Utah and to the present day, San Juan County has barred tribes the right to exercise any sort of political power. Only a scant few elected offices have been held by Natives, and not enough to effect lasting change. Racism abounds throughout in schools and government offices, racist beliefs even impacting the distribution of electricity and water, which is kept out of Native communities.

The attempt to strip Bears Ears of national monument status is a disgusting, anti-people measure. It is permeated with racism and disregard for the environment. Energy companies would ravage the land, laying waste to twelve-thousand years of rich human history, while creating few jobs and very little real growth for the economy. There are over 100,000 cultural and ecological sites spread out over the Bears Ears National Monument, representative of the numerous tribes’ unique civilizations. Putting this vast ecosystem under State oversight would ensure that contracts to drill and mine the land would be given out freely, regardless of the sentiment of the Natives who live there. Forests would be knocked down and mountainsides defaced in the reckless quest for nonrenewable resources. Cultural and ecological sites would be destroyed.

The Republican and Democratic Parties (or, more accurately, the Republican-Democratic Party) cannot provide jobs or protect the environment. San Juan County is desperate. One ruling corporate wing has failed them, so they’ve turned to another in the hopes of getting out of dire straits.

Only the Green Party can end the rampant unemployment, poverty, and despair prevailing in the county. Taxes falling onto workers would be reduced, resulting in a more competitive working-class capable of keeping up with capital and energy investment; renewable energy would be encouraged over nonrenewable energy, creating many more jobs than the few created through oil and natural gas extraction. Small businesses would be nurtured through the lessening of taxes, fees, and bureaucratic management, creating yet more jobs. Safe, well-paid, and fulfilling jobs would ultimately become the norm, with strong labor unions ensuring that one’s rights would be respected fully.

The giving away of public land to oil, natural gas, and mining interests would be halted. Rural communities would be encouraged to forge sustainable relationships with ranching, mining, forestry, and farming. Public and private rural land would be greatly increased in the interest of protecting local ecosystems. Farmers and ranchers would be one with nature. Urban centers would also see a complete renewal.

The Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Uintah, Ouray Ute, and Ute Mountain Tribes would be treated with respect and dignity by a radically reworked government, which would be made to honor past treaties and obligations. The tribes would have the final say in the management of their ancestral land, guaranteeing the protection of cultural and ecological sites. Significant autonomy would be given to Natives, while the system currently in place keeping them from representing their communities would be done away with.

All of this is within the realm of possibility.

We just have to reach out and grab it.

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