Aspen-area residents urged to weigh in on battle over Utah monuments
IF YOU GO
What: A Monumental Evening on decisions affecting Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments
When: Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Gym at Third Street Center, Carbondale
Cost: Free and open to the public
A Carbondale-based conservation group is urging Roaring Fork Valley residents to get involved in the battle likely to be triggered next week when President Trump shrinks two national monuments in Utah.
Wilderness Workshop is co-hosting “A Monumental Evening” that executive director Sloan Shoemaker said is designed to educate people about the issues, inspire them to take action and empower them to get involved.
Both national monuments in southeastern Utah are popular with Roaring Fork Valley desert rats and a day’s drive from Aspen. Both areas are famous for slot canyons, Anasazi ruins and rock art, spectacular scenery and hikes through varied terrain.
“Grand Staircase and Bears Ears are places that we all go to,” Shoemaker said.
The meeting is Dec. 6 at the Third Street Center in Carbondale. It will feature a panel discussion with three experts in the thick of the strategizing by conservationists and Native American tribes.
Trump is expected to fly to Salt Lake City next week, possibly as early as Monday, to announce his decision on downsizing the national monuments. Ryan Zinke, secretary of the Department of Interior, recommended decreasing the boundaries of the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears and the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante.
If Trump shrinks the monuments Monday, that adds to the urgency of Wednesday’s meeting, said Will Roush, conservation director for Wilderness Workshop.
“We’ll know exactly what legal rational the Trump administration used to justify shrinking the monuments and what the legal strategies to fight back will likely be,” Roush said. “We’ll also have a much better sense of how the public can take part in fighting to keep protections for the monuments.”
President Barack Obama created Bears Ears and President Bill Clinton created Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in the waning days of their administrations.
The Trump administration is considering reducing the size of the monuments in what it says is a response to calls for more local control. Shrinking the boundaries would allow gas and oil extraction and mining in areas where those activities are currently restricted. Many state and local politicians in Utah have fought for the changes after what they see as federal government overreach.
Critics contend reducing the boundaries will put archeological resources and the natural beauty of the areas at risk.
Wilderness Workshop started this year to bring more issues of national concern to the attention of its members and the community at-large.
“We have an interest in the larger forces at play,” Shoemaker said.
Many environmentalists feel the status of the national monuments is the signature public lands issue of the time.
“We hope to educate people about the details,” Shoemaker said. “We want to give people some hope — there are some really great minds working on this.”
The conservation community will “push back” if Trump shrinks the monuments and tries to weaken the Antiquities Act, Shoemaker said. It’s been rare for one president to reverse a course taken by a different president on the national monuments. Environmentalists say they will legally challenge an effort by Trump to shrink the sites.
Shoemaker said he remains optimistic over the fate of public lands despite numerous challenges coming out of Washington. People across the country are mobilizing on variety of issues.
“I think they’re getting shaken out of their apathy,” Shoemaker said.
“A Monumental Evening” is being co-hosted by High Country News and the National Parks Conservation Association. The meeting will feature Heidi McIntosh, Matthew Campbell and John Leshy.
McIntosh is managing attorney for the Rocky Mountain regional office of Earthjustice. She formerly worked as staff attorney and legal director for Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
Campbell is staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund. The Navajo, Hopi and other Native American tribes lobbied for creation of Bears Ears and are actively defending it.
Leshy is a law professor at University of California Hastings and served as general counsel of the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Clinton presidency.
Wilderness Workshop is billing the event as an “enlightening and hopeful evening exploring one of America’s greatest ideas, the Antiquities Act.”
To help set the right mood there will be beer and wine for purchase during the brief opening reception and there will be a holiday party after the discussion. Snacks and treats will be provided by Open Fire Catering. Organizers need a head count, so RSVP required by Friday to http://www.wildernessworkshop.org/monumental.
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