SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: February 6, 2020

SNIP: Plans finalized on Thursday for two national monuments in Utah downsized by Donald Trump would ensure that lands previously off-limits to energy development will be open to mining and drilling.

The move comes despite pending lawsuits from conservation, tribal and paleontology groups, who have challenged the constitutionality of the president’s action. The Trump administration slashed the size of Bears Ears national monument by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument by nearly half in December 2017, in what represented the largest elimination of public lands protections in US history.

Conservation groups criticized the Trump administration on Thursday for spending time on management plans they believe will become moot when the court sides with their assertion that Trump misused the Antiquities Act to reverse decisions by previous presidents.

A joint statement released by Native American tribal nations and conservation groups behind the court cases challenging Trump’s downsizing said the monuments are hotbeds of paleontological research, as well as archeological, cultural and natural resources.

Sarah Bauman, the executive director of the Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, said the monument was an essential site for research into the climate crisis. “As a result of its physical isolation and areas of minimal human impact, as well as its enormous ecological diversity, it provides mankind with rare opportunities for unique comparative climate change studies,” she said. “Without protections, these opportunities will be lost and with them our ability to build essential knowledge and resources for mitigating climate change.”