In a time of increasing environmental destruction, a move from President Donald Trump has decreased the protected land around two national monuments.
Proponents of this move argue that the land should be free for commercial development. This is disastrous not only for conservation of the environment, but also for relations with Native American nations in the area.
The land of the monument Bears Ears, which was established by President Barack Obama late into his second term, will decrease by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante, which was established by President Bill Clinton, will be reduced by nearly half according to Fortune.com.
This would open sacred and environmentally significant land to commercial use like mining and oil extraction. Environmental groups, conservation groups and five Native American tribes have already filed suit.
The basis of their suit claims that the president does not have the power to cut the size of monuments, only Congress does.
The only precedence ever set for Trump’s move came in 1915, when President Woodrow Wilson removed roughly half of Mount Olympus National Monument. However, since this action was never ratified in court, it will be difficult for Trump’s supporters to truly establish precedence.
The world is at a critical point in climate change. Choosing to decrease protected lands and open them to commercial interests and all-terrain vehicles is a short-sighted political move that will only benefit greedy corporate energy conglomerates.
The lands are home to cliff dwellings, burial sites, petroglyphs and native plants used for medicine according to NBC News. However, Grand Staircase-Escalante is also home to one of the nation’s largest coal deposits, right under a jackpot of dinosaur fossils.
Trump’s continued support of coal calls his true motives into question. Although he claims to be righting an overreach of power by previous Democratic presidencies, he seems to truly be setting up a revitalization of the American coal industry.
Such a rebound would potentially slow the development of clean energies—if America is not running out of coal, it is not working as hard to replace it—and damage the environment irrevocably. The world should not be working to find more coal; it should be working to clean up the energy sector.
Luckily, the lawsuits filed will most likely tie up these lands in litigation for years—potentially well into a new presidency.