Colorado Democrats criticize Trump’s Utah monuments decision as a threat to public lands elsewhere

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Washington, D.C.-, December 4, 2017 | comments

Colorado’s top Democrats were swift to blast President Donald Trump’s decision Monday to scale back two national monuments in neighboring Utah, calling it a move that puts public lands at risk.

“Preserving and expanding our national monuments is keeping in the best traditions of our country,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “In Colorado, we value our lands because they are part of our fabric and they strengthen local economies. We hope our leaders can find a way to let monuments remain and return their focus to more pressing issues facing our country.”

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, called Trump’s move a raid of “public lands for private gain,” while Congressman Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, said it was an unprecedented attack.

“He has already come after our national parks. Now it’s #BearsEars and #GrandStaircaseEscalante. Where will it end?” DeGette tweeted.

Trump announced in Salt Lake City that he would pare back the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments from, respectively, more than 1.3 million-acres to 201,876 acres and from nearly 1.9 million acres to 1,003,863 acres.

The pair were among 27 monuments that Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review this year. Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients National Monument outside Cortez was also on that list but was later removed.

Republicans have called the scope of the Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase Escalante monuments, designated by Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, respectively, an example of federal overreach, seeking instead for them to be under local control.

“Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington,” Trump said in announcing his decision. “And guess what? They’re wrong.”

The debate in part led to the coveted Outdoor Retailer summer and winter trade shows’ decision to relocate from Salt Lake to Denver.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, said Trump’s decision was “in lock-step with a small number of Washington special interests” and noting that president disregarded the wishes of area tribes.

“Today’s announcement … disregards the wishes of a tribal coalition and ignores the input of Western leaders and businesses to initiate the single largest removal of protection for public lands in our nation’s history,” Bennet said in a written statement.

The Navajo Nation, whose territory makes up parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, released a statement Monday saying it had no choice but to take legal action against the Trump administration.

“The Navajo Nation has made repeated requests to meet with President Trump on this issue. The Bears Ears Monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation but to many tribes in the region,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in a written statement. “The decision to reduce the size of the monument is being made with no tribal consultation. The Navajo Nation will defend Bears Ears. The reduction in the size of the Monument leaves us no choice but to litigate this decision.”

Navajo Vice President Jonathan Nez called it “a sad day for indigenous people and for America.”

Content originally published by the Denver Post on December 4, 2017.
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