Valley of the Gods in Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Photo: John Fowler

Environmental groups sue Trump administration over national monument plans

Environmental groups are suing the Trump administration in hopes of obtaining documents about plans for several national monuments, including those supported by tribes.

The groups filed several Freedom of Information Act requests for documents related to the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and other sites. But they said they haven't received any documents from the Department of the Interior or the White House, The Associated Press reported.

“If Interior Secretary Zinke’s ‘first step’ before telling the president to ravage the Bears Ears National Monument was, as he claims, to ‘gather the facts,’ why are our months-old requests for those already-gathered facts still unanswered when federal law gives the Secretary 20 days to respond?" Aaron Paul, a staff attorney with the Grand Canyon Trust, said in a press release on Thursday.

Secretary Ryan Zinke visited Bears Ears in May but did not tell tribes in advance of his recommendation to revise the boundaries. His preliminary report was released in June, while lower-level Interior were attending a tribal conference, but they found out at the same time as tribes during the National Congress of American Indians mid-year session in Connecticut.

Zinke appeared at the conference a day later and, unprompted, responded to claims that he failed to adequately consult with tribes who support the monument.

‪Secretary Ryan Zinke discusses his recommendation to revise the Bears Ears National Monument at the National Congress of American Indians midyear conference in Connecticut. He is asking Congress to authorize tribal co-management of a portion of the monument in Utah, claiming neither the Department of the Interior nor President Donald Trump have the power to do that. Session held at Mohegan Sun on the Mohegan Reservation. June 13, 2017. #NCAIMY17‬

Posted by Indianz.Com on Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Secretary Zinke on Bears Ears: 'I talked to the tribes before, I talked to the tribes after'

“I talked to the tribes before, I talked to the tribes after,” Zinke said on June 13. “I called all the tribes.”

Zinke later sent a more detailed report to President Donald Trump in August that contained recommendations about Bears Ears and other monuments but did not release a copy to tribes or the public. A version was leaked to the media in September.

“The Navajo Nation supports keeping the Bears Ears at the full 1.3 million acres," President Russell Begaye said in a press release on Wednesday, complaining that Zinke did not enage in adequate consultation. "For the Nation, in order to protect all of our sacred sites that exist in the area, we are asking President Trump not to reduce this.”

The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, a diverse group of tribes, supported the designation of the monument. They say it protects ancestral villages, sacred sites and burial grounds from looting, development and other threats.

“President Trump’s arbitrary proposal to eliminate protections for sacred lands leaves tens of thousands of historical and cultural sites vulnerable,” Alfred Lomahquahu, the vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe, said in a press release distributed by the Native American Rights Fund on Thursday. “The monument was already greatly reduced from what the tribes originally requested. Now, without consultation and without notification, President Trump is preparing to break the government’s promise to work with tribes to protect the homeland of our ancestors.”

Read More on the Story:
Groups sue for details on Trump plan for national monuments (The Associated Press November 2, 2017)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
President Trump plans to shrink boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument (October 27, 2017)
Bears Ears remains in limbo as Republicans leave tribes out of monument bill (October 13, 2017)
Cronkite News: Republicans quickly move bill to limit new national monuments (October 12, 2017)
Navajo Nation plans to sue Trump administration to protect Bears Ears in Utah (September 21, 2017)
Secretary Zinke goes against tribal interests with monument recommendations (September 18, 2017)
Cronkite News: Secretary Zinke sends secret monument report to White House (August 25, 2017)
Richard Frias and Todd Leahy: National monuments preserve Native culture (July 31, 2017)
Navajo Nation citizen Carol Surveyor announces run for Congress in Utah (July 24, 2017)
Cronkite News: Trump's review of monuments draws 1.4 million comments (July 24, 2017)
Trump administration receives 1.4M comments on national monuments (July 12, 2017)
Loni Romo: We owe it to future generations to keep Bears Ears protected (July 10, 2017)
Lawsuits expected after President Trump changes Bears Ears boundary (June 28, 2017)
Secretary Zinke rejects complaints about consultation and Bears Ears (June 24, 2017)
Tribes lash out at Trump administration for lapses in consultation (June 13, 2017)
Ryan Benally: Bears Ears was a false promise for Native Americans (May 26, 2017)
Documents show few meetings between Secretary Zinke and tribes (May 22, 2017)
Deadline looms in Secretary Zinke's review of Bears Ears and other monuments (May 15, 2017)
Terry Tempest Williams: Will Bears Ears be the next Standing Rock? (May 8, 2017)
Tribes vow fight in effort to protect Bears Ears National Monument (May 3,2017)
Tribes encounter silence from Secretary Zinke in Bears Ears review (May 2, 2017)
Ute Tribe demands 'voice' as Trump orders review of Bears Ears (April 28, 2017)
Trump singles out Bears Ears as an 'abuse' of government's power(April 26, 2017)
Jacqueline Keeler: New monument marks victory for tribal sites (January 10, 2017)
Tribes celebrate designation of national monument at Bears Ears (January 9, 2017)
Trending in News
More Headlines