Earlier this month Donald Trump announced reducing Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument by 85% would be a great move for Americans. But it’s a Canadian based special interest that benefits far more, namely Energy Fuels Resources, a U.S. subsidiary of a Canadian mining company that lobbied for the change in the hopes of gaining access to uranium on the public land. Trump’s incoming EPA deputy secretary led their lobbying team.
A campaign by Energy Fuels Resources urged the Trump administration to dramatically reduce Bears Ears. The company reached out just months before Trump announced he was slashing the 1.35 million acre site down to 202,000 acres.
Company CEO Mark Chalmers complained in a May 25 letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that the national monument protections could “affect existing and future mill operations” of the company, which owns a mill adjacent to Bears Ears.
There are also many other known uranium and vanadium deposits … that could provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.”
Zinke insisted the president’s push to reduce national monuments is unrelated to mining special interests.
This is not about energy. There is no mine within Bears Ears.”
But the president’s redrawn boundaries of Bears Ears now puts those uranium deposits Energy Fuels Resources referenced outside the protected area.
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Energy Fuels Resources paid $30,000 to lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels to push for the change throughout this year, according to federal records. Andrew Wheeler, whom Trump has tapped to be deputy secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency, headed the lobbying team. Wheeler awaits Senate confirmation. Members of the energy firm also held a private meeting about Bears Ears with Zinke advisers.
Trump blasted the national monuments as a “massive giveaway” to the public. He ordered Zinke earlier this year to review 27 sites and make recommendations about their future.
In his announcement speech in Utah, Trump referred to Bears Ears and other national monuments as an “abuse of the Antiquities Act.” The “abuses … have not just threatened your local economies, they’ve threatened your very way of life,” Trump said. “They’ve threatened your hearts.” He said his actions “reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to your citizens … Public lands will once again be for public use.”
However it appears the reduction of these monuments will reduce the public’s access, not increase it, to these areas and open them for strictly private big money interests, something Trump’s critics warned about.
“Quantity and quality of archaeological sites” – let’s #SaveGrandStaircase & #StandWithBearsEars to protect our American heritage! Tell Trump we want to #KeepItPublic https://t.co/nu26FffAKi pic.twitter.com/Cg8JDJyPOi
— Wilderness Society (@Wilderness) December 3, 2017
Numerous important archaeological sites of ancient Native American culture, including dwellings and petroglyphs, were protected within Bears Ears National Monument. The 85% reduction and mining put them at risk of destruction. Patagonia and a coalition of 5 Native American tribes filed lawsuits against Donald Trump to maintain public access for all Americans to these lands and protect ancestral sacred sites.