President Donald Trump visited the Utah State Capitol on Monday, Dec. 4 and announced the reduction of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
The proclamations will cut over 1.1 million from Bears Ears National Monument — 85 percent of its original size — and 800,000 acres from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The upcoming months will be full of legal battles. Outdoor retail company Patagonia is leading a coalition of conservation organizations, Native American tribes and other parties which have filed suit against the Trump administration. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which consists of the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and the Ute Indian Tribe, has also filed a complaint. To date, the courts have never ruled on whether a president actually has the power to make these dramatic changes.
Almanis Biye, a member of the Navajo Nation and a U.S. Marine, feels a bit helpless over the proclamations but maintains the resolve of his people.
“To tell you the truth, I’m not surprised. I’m pissed as hell, but at this point I don’t know what I can do that hasn’t already been done,” he says. “I know [the Navajo Nation] won’t stay quiet while this happens; at every chance we’ll be there trying to not let this happen to our people again.”
Biye also says that litigation was the only option because President Trump did not meet with the Navajo Nation, despite repeated requests, and he did not consult with any of the tribes about this decision.
“We’re going to sue, and we’re going to make sure our voices are heard,” he says. “This isn’t the country I fought for, and the attack on Native Americans and environmental issues aren’t going down without a fight. As of right now, 10 conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, so we aren’t alone on this.”
It’s unclear what the future holds for the two national monuments, but the legal battle may leave a mark in American history and set forward new regulations in how national monuments will be protected in the future.