Climate + Energy

Trump Moves to Destroy Bears Ears For Oil and Gas Industry

UPDATE:  Speak out today to defend Bears Ears National Monument! Trump and Zinke are hellbent at opening up these lands for fracking, let’s push back as hard we can and defend this irreplaceable landscape!


The Bears Ears loom over Cedar Mesa, the core of the National Monument.

President Trump seems poised to strip protections from the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah, as well as numerous other National Monuments across the United States that have been protected in the last 20 years.

The attack against our public lands and our national heritage is unprecedented.  Never before in history has the President questioned the wisdom behind our National Monuments.  It’s not a surprise.  After all, Presidents from all parties have protected National Monuments over the years, setting the stage for iconic and irreplaceable landscapes like the Grand Canyon to be forever protected and enjoyed.

With the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument in Trump’s crosshairs, however, it’s clear that this is not about a careful review of National Monument designations.  This is an assault on American public lands, plain and simple.  And that assault seems to be fueled by the demands of the oil and gas industry.

Check out our latest series of interactive maps detailing the threat to the Bears Ears from the oil and gas industry’s seemingly relentless push to tap every square inch of our public lands in the western United States.  Already, thousands of acres of public lands have been leased to industry in and around Bears Ears.  And already, hundreds of oil and gas wells have been put into production, decimating the land.


Oil well near the Bears Ears.

Industry’s hunger for more is unquestionable.  As one industry spokesperson commented, There certainly is industry appetite for development there, or else companies wouldn’t have leases in the area.”

National oil and gas lobbyists have also broadly attacked National Monuments, including Bears Ears, claiming they represent “obstacles” to fracking.


Ancestral Puebloans flourished in the Bears Ears National Monument more than a thousand years ago.  According to the oil and gas industry, their ruins and their culture are “obstacles” to their profits.

The assault is is all-the-more outrageous given the unprecedented Tribal oversight established by the Monument designation.  For the first time in history, a National Monument designation created a Tribal commission to oversee and guide management.

In the case of Bears Ears, the designation empowered representatives of the Hopi Nation, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Northern Ute, and Zuni Pueblo to have a major role in the future of the region.  It was a reflection of the cultural significance of the region, but also a reflection of the need to ensure that protection of landscapes in the American West provided for oversight and guidance from its first inhabitants.

President Trump is certainly taking a shot at public lands and public process.  After all, the Bears Ears National Monument was designated after years of public outreach and consultation.  But he’s also taking a shot at Tribal empowerment.

No matter which way you look at it, it’s an injustice that seems calculated to serve the interests of the oil and gas industry and the anti-public lands movement they support.

With Trump’s Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, signaling his opposition to the Bears Ears National Monument, the message is loud and clear:  Bears Ears is on the chopping block.  It’s not just a slap in the face to Americans, it’s a punch in the gut.

Anyone who cares about our public lands, our irreplaceable western American landscape, about honoring and respecting America’s Indigenous peoples, and about defending our public interest from the greed of the fossil fuel industry, should be outraged.

President Trump’s move is a blatant effort to throw Americans and our public lands under the bus for the fracking industry.  Our lands, our climate, our culture, and our communities all stand to lose.

In the meantime, check out our Bears Ears photo album or better yet, check out the Bureau of Land Management’s spectacular pictures.

Also, if you haven’t yet, check out Patagonia’s multi-media Bears Ears website, truly an experience.

patagonia bears ears

8 replies »

  1. June 1, 2017: How stupid does America look right now after the president they elected announces he doesn’t give a damn about what he believes to be the hoax of climate change?