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Standing up for our public lands

Driving through the streets of Salt Lake City, yards and windows are dotted with signs in support of protecting Utah’s wildlife. The most popular are the bright yellow that reads “Protect Wild Utah” and the striking white that reads “Utah Stands with Bears Ears.” 

Back in December, Trump greatly reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah: Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante. According to the New York Times, this is “the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history,” cutting back Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by about 50 percent. 

In general, Utah is a very conservative state. However, while some areas of the state are fine with removing these national parks, much of Utah is extremely upset that their land is being taken away from them. Those who have been to or even seen pictures of Utah are aware of how truly beautiful it really is. 

Utah is an outdoor state, as there is so much land to enjoy. Many people spend their time hiking, skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing, biking and so much more.  And people from Utah and beyond make great use out of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Taking away these monuments is taking away something that people use regularly for enjoyment.

The parks need to be kept for reasons more than just our enjoyment. These breathtaking lands are rich in Native American culture and history. In fact, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which is composed of five Native American tribes, lobbied for the creation of Bears Ears in the first place and since this news have hosted protest. And let’s not forget all of the plants and animals that will lose their homes. Cutting back these lands will destroy the habitats for many species that are already diminishing quickly, and pushing many species to the verge

of extinction.

According to Trump, opening up these public lands to be destroyed by mining, oil and gas extraction, logging and more “will usher in a bright new future of wonder and wealth.” However, the law technically does not allow the president to rescind land. The 1906 Antiquities Act gives the president the sole ability to protect “historic landmarks … and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” The law does not say that the president has the ability to cut these lands, although presidents have made minor adjustments in the past. Because of the nature of the law, the fate of these monuments will be decided in court.

If first Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, then what next? Where does it end? What about Zion National Park? Yellowstone, Redwood or Grand Teton? What determines what will go and what will stay? Will our country soon be a blank,  industrial wasteland?

If you have been to some of these parks already, you know their beauty. If you have yet to get there, I promise you they are worth seeing. Our country’s national parks were created for everyone to enjoy. They are beautiful ecosystems that show us how incredible our world really is, but the government sees no need to protect them. 

Demand that these wild places are protected. Do not allow the government to change the law to make it so parks can be destroyed, instead of only created. Do not let them take away the land that belongs to the public, because this land belongs to both you and me. Do not allow the last wild spaces, filled with beautiful creatures of all shapes and sizes, to disappear forever. 

It is up to us to take a stand. If you want to preserve these places, fight for them. Petition your representatives, join in on the protests and make sure your own “Protect National Monuments” sign is raised high.

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