Have you called your federal representatives about the travesty of a tax bill being rammed through the House and Senate right now? If not, stop reading this and contact them now. Tell them to do everything in their power to kill a bill that guts the middle class, students, and the poor to shower money on the wealthiest corporations and individuals.

Among other poisonous provisions, the Senate's bill opens up Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for exploitation by oil and gas companies. No, this has nothing to do with taxes. It's just that the Republicans haven't managed to force these pristine wilderness lands open to drilling in any other way, so they rammed it into the bill they forced through without pausing to let anyone actually read it.

While the GOP-dominated House and Senate finish merging their tax bills into one atrocious ripoff, Trump will head to Utah today in order to slash Bears Ears National Monument by 85%, and reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante by half.

We are going to lose priceless scientific treasures and indigenous heritage lands because of greed and ignorance.

Grand Escalante could become a land of strip mines. This is what we would lose:

Since designation, Grand Staircase has become a paleontology hot spot, the only place in North America where we can study in detail the causes of dinosaur extinction. New dinosaur species turn up there regularly — and paleontologists have surveyed only 6% of the monument. Thousands of fossils come from the Kaiparowits, the very place the Utah delegation imagines transforming from national monument to coal mine.

Our “science monument” also turns out to be good for local business. Hunting, fishing and existing mining claims continue; 95% of the monument is grazed by livestock just as it was before monument designation. Gateway communities such as Kanab, Escalante and Boulder have seen increases in population, jobs, personal income and per capita income that mirror other Western counties with protected lands.

Bears Ears is home to over ten thousands years of Native American history and culture:

The Bears Ears cultural landscape is known to contain more than 100,000 cultural and archaeological sites, making it the most significant unprotected archaeological area in the United States. Perhaps nowhere in the United States are so many well-preserved cultural resources found within such a striking and relatively undeveloped natural landscape.


The majority of these sites have never been inventoried or studied by western archaeologists, and their preservation is important to all the peoples of the world. More than just a library of human history, this place remains vital to tribal communities across the Colorado Plateau as a place of subsistence, spirituality, healing, and contemplation.

Image shows red sandstone cliff dwellings in pristine condition, tucked under an overhang. A large sandstone boulder balances precariously at the edge of the cliff in the distance.
 Citadel Ruins at Bears Ears: an Anasazi ruin. Credit: IIP Photo Archive, Bob Wick, BLM Flickr

Since Trump's intentions were announced, people throughout the desert Southwest have united in protest. And while Trump thinks he can shrink these lands at the stroke of a pen, the truth is, these monuments will be fiercely protected in court – and the defenders have the law on their side:

What’s next for the two monuments? First up: litigation. The 1906 Antiquities Act gives presidents broad discretion to protect “historic landmarks … and other objects of historic or scientific interest,” without any input from Congress. There is no language in the law, however, granting presidents the power to rescind or cut them. Presidents have made minor adjustments to monument boundaries and one major reduction: in 1915, Woodrow Wilson reduced Mount Olympus National Monument almost by half. None of those excisions have occurred in the last 50 years, however, and none have ever been tested in court.

That is about to change. “We’ve got the documents ready to file,” says University of Colorado law professor Charles Wilkinson, who serves as advisor to the coalition of five Indian nations that petitioned for the creation of the Bears Ears monument. Conservation groups have also prepared to file suit to protect Grand Staircase Escalante, and it is likely that the monuments’ fate will be tied up in court for many months to come.

If you want to protect our federal lands, you can help.

Contact your state and federal representatives. Make your wishes clear: these lands must be preserved for the good of us all.

Click here to help the tribes fight back.

Show up to local protests.

Visit the monuments. Learn about the geology, ecology, paleontology, archaeology, and the value of wilderness.

And above all, don't give up.

The Milky Way blazes through a star-filled sky, with a silhouetted mountain range below. In the foreground, tents and camp lights shine beneath a slickrock cliff and a tall pinon pine.
"Utah Rising." Credit: Ryan Hallock (CC BY 2.0)