SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – President Donald Trump’s rare move to shrink two large national monuments in Utah triggered another round of outrage among Native American leaders who vowed to unite and take the fight to court to preserve protections for lands they consider sacred.
Environmental and conservation groups joined the battle Monday and began filing lawsuits that ensure that Trump’s announcement is far from the final chapter of the years long public lands battle. The court cases are likely to drag on for years, maybe even into a new presidency.
Trump decided to reduce Bears Ears — created last December by President Barack Obama — by about 85 per cent and Grand Staircase-Escalante — designated in 1996 by President Bill Clinton — by nearly half. The moves earned him cheers from Republican leaders in Utah who lobbied him to undo protections they considered overly broad.
Conservation groups called it the largest elimination of protected land in American history.
The move comes a week after tribal leaders decried Trump for using the name of a historical Native American figure as a slur.
On November 27, Trump used a White House event honouring Navajo Code Talkers to take a political jab at Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat he has derisively nicknamed “Pocahontas” for her claim to have Native American heritage.
“It’s just another slap in the face for a lot of us, a lot of our Native American brothers and sisters,” Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez said. “To see that happen a week ago, with disparaging remarks, and now this.”
Trump also overrode tribal objections to approve the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines.