In 1906 President Teddy Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act allowing presidents to protect historic landmarks and prevent the looting of Native American artifacts from archeological sites by creating National Monuments. The act has been used more than 150 times by nearly every president to protect hundreds of millions of acres, including 5 of the 10 most visited national parks, from commercial development and mineral exploitation. The resulting parks and monuments are supported by the vast majority of Americans, contribute billions of tourism dollars to surrounding communities and preserve our physical and cultural heritage.
After years of organizing, the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition played a major role in advocating for the National Monument designation signed by President Obama in December 2016. Their objective was to protect thousands of cultural and archaeological sites containing tribal artifacts vulnerable to looting. This was the first time that tribal leaders played a collaborative role in the Antiquities Act process.
With Donald Trump in office, local, state and congressional Republican politicians in Utah, where 63% of the land is controlled by the federal government, are working to find ways to reduce the size of existing monuments and curtail future use of the Antiquities Act. Significantly, a president can make national monuments only from land already controlled by the federal government and the designation generally does not change existing usage on the land. The Antiquities Act protects these lands from future development and criminalizes looting of artifacts and desecration of sacred sites.
Those opposed to Bears Ear, and national monuments in general, believe that federal lands should be available for private profit and commercial exploitation. Protection of our historical and natural heritage is of little value to those who see a chance to make a buck. We hope you agree there is immeasurable value in setting aside and protecting sites like Bears Ears and other National Monuments.
Call to Action
- Before May 26 submit an on line comment to Secretary Zinke supporting the Bears Ears National Monument, Use this website and search for DOI-2017-0002. The most compelling arguments will refer to your own experiences in our national monuments and parks and your support for preserving what is left of the history of the Native peoples who have advocated for Bears Ears.
- Before July 10 (how about right now!) submit additional comments on any of the other national monuments at the same website using the same ID number.
- Call or send a post card to your members of congress to express opposition to any efforts to curtail the Antiquities Act.
The Hard Ask of Members of Congress: Will you oppose any legislation seeking to curtail the power of Presidents to use the Antiquities Act to “protect objects of historic or scientific interest” on existing federal lands?