In December, not knowing much about him, I tentatively declared Interior nominee Ryan Zinke to be potentially “not terrible?” It wasn’t exactly high praise, but even that most mild of optimism (or a lower level of dread) was misplaced.
BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT, Utah — Parts of this sprawling region of red-rock canyons, towering mesas and ancient Native American sites in southeastern Utah could lose their strict federal protection as a national monument, under a recommendation that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is expected to issue on Thursday.
Shrinking the Bears Ears National Monument and reopening much of the land for possible mining and drilling would be widely seen as a direct blow to former President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy, and the first major test of a century-old conservation law.
Bear Ears is the opening for them. This was a piece of land set off almost entirely due to indigenous concerns, which in and of itself already goes against conservative philosophy. It’s not the Democrats really understand that there are multiple nations still on this continent, in different occupied territories, but conservatives want to entirely wipe that idea out, subsume it all under the guise of America.
And America, for them, is business. We’ve talked endlessly about the idea of how the modern GOP is set up in opposition to the idea of “the common good,” whether that is the shared responsibilities of public health or helping people not be trapped by the circumstances of their birth. But its apotheosis is in how it treats the sprawling and beautiful land that makes up this country, however it was gained.
They want to dig it up and convert it into wealth. Not for everyone, of course. For miners and loggers, mostly. For large companies. For those already wealthy. The argument is that the government shouldn’t control the “people’s land”, logic which is easily disproven, but very seductive on its face. Public land reverts to the states, which sells it to private companies, which tear it up.
The Trump admin has wanted to do this from Day 1, which really any GOP government would have done. He’s particularly eager to sell the country off, since he’s a cheap monster with no respect for anything but himself, but this would have happened with any Republican. It’s what they do.
Bear Ears has been at the top of their list since President Obama designated it last year. To them it was the ultimate in tyrannical over-reach, since it was just for Indians, and since there are precious, precious minerals under it. Jason Chaffetz even launched an investigation into how a staffer at Bryce Canyon could have made a mail slot for Bear Ears unless there was prior collusion (I’m not kidding).
Bear Ears was at the center of anti-Obama paranoia, fraudulent terror, anti-Native activism (of which DAPL is a huge part), and of course the assault on public land. This is the door they want to push through in order to break the Antiquities Act. Any action will be challenged in court, and challenged for years, and with hundreds of federal seats open, and the potential for more Supreme Court posts, they feel confident they’ll win.
They genuinely don’t think that the President should be able to protect land from capitalism. They don’t think anyone should. And they’re going to use Bear Ears as the first test case to erode the Act that has allowed us to celebrate the wild and impossible beauty of this still-forming continent. These are people who gaze into the vast western sunsets and say “Not bad. Could use some mines.” Make sure you call your Senators and Reps and tell them to fight to protect the Antiquities Act.
Oh, and a bonus! Here’s the worst person.
Mike Noel, a Utah state representative, said that reducing or eliminating Bears Ears would be “a victory for our state.” Federal management of land in his state had constrained drilling, mining and grazing, he said, adding that Washington had no business setting aside so much land for the strict protection that monument status affords.
“When you turn the management over to the tree-huggers, the bird and bunny lovers and the rock lickers, you turn your heritage over,” Mr. Noel said.