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

Tribes plan lawsuit as President Trump schedules visit to reduce size of Bears Ears in Utah

President Donald Trump will be reducing the size of the Bears Ears National Monument during a visit to Utah on Monday, according to news reports.

Trump won't be going to Bears Ears or to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which also will be downsized, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. He will instead be making his announcement hundreds of miles away in Salt Lake, the state capital, the paper said.

The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition fought for the designation of Bears Ears in order to protect ancestral villages, burial grounds and sacred sites. The Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Tribe, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Zuni Pueblo are planning to sue the Trump administration on the day of the president's announcement, The Tribune reported.

“The tribes view this as an affront to themselves and their own self-determination,” Natalie Landreth an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, told The Tribune. “All of us, all five tribes, will be suing jointly the day he makes an announcement.”

The monument, as designated by former president Barack Obama, covers about 1.3 million acres. Trump could reduce the size by as much as 80 percent, an aide to a key Republican lawmaker said last month.

"I would say with some certainty, that in regards to Bears Ears, that that monument will probably end up being somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 acres," Ron Dean, a director of operations for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), told Utah Legislature's Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands on November 14.

‪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'

Neither the White House, nor the Department of the Interior, have confirmed Trump's plans. But Hatch has been the president's key source of information on the monuments -- Hatch received the first call about the reductions in late October and again this week regarding Monday's visit.

The tribes, on the other hand, have been kept out of the loop. They have repeatedly complained of inadequate consultation from Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who has otherwise defended his outreach on the monument.

"I talked to the tribes," Zinke said during his first appearance before the National Congress of American Indians in June, not long after he visited Bears Ears in Utah. “I talked to the tribes before, I talked to the tribes after. I called all the tribes."

Read More on the Story:
Trump will shrink Bears Ears during Utah visit Monday, when five tribes promise to sue him (The Salt Lake Tribune November 28, 2017)
Trump to meet with Mormon leaders while in Utah to shrink Bears Ears, Grand Staircase monuments (The Salt Lake Tribune November 28, 2017)
Senator: Trump to visit Utah to announce monument changes (The Associated Press November 28, 2017)
Trump to visit Utah on Monday to announce his plans to shrink Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments (The Washington Post November 29, 2017)

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