[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 198 (Tuesday, December 5, 2017)]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
NATIONAL MONUMENTS DESIGNATION
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, it was 20 years ago when I was first
elected to the Senate. I was asked to consider a bill called the Red
Rocks Wilderness Act. I didn't know anything about it. It was a bill
that had been offered by Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey. He was
retiring. I was asked to consider sponsoring this wilderness proposal
in the State of Utah. Of course, I said, I am from Illinois, not Utah,
and I have never seen this. Well, they asked me to come out and take a
look, and I did.
My wife and I went out to take a look at what was known as the Red
Rocks Wilderness Area. It is in the southeastern corner of Utah. I had
never been there, nor had I ever heard of it before I visited. What an
eye-opener, to go there and see this magnificent vista, this incredible
landscape that was being proposed for wilderness protection and status.
So over the years, I have reintroduced the bill, the conversation
continued, and it wasn't until President Obama took a major share of
this area, which is in San Juan County in the southeastern corner of
Utah, and designated it in the name of the Bears Ears Monument that we
finally achieved protection for this beautiful piece of real estate.
I have been there. It is breathtaking. There are incredible cultural
sites there by Native Americans, and it is a great place to visit, to
hike, and to enjoy a special piece of America. It is filled with
magnificent red rock formations, deep, carved canyons, long mesas, and
rock arches. Some of the photos just don't do it justice. We can take a
look at some of these, and we can get an idea of the vastness of the
area that is affected here.
Then you might take a look at some of the others and realize it
includes a lot of cultural and prehistoric settings that were utilized
by the Native American people when they called these caves their homes.
It has special meaning to the Native American Tribes that are there.
Many of them trace their origins to the very people who dwelled in
these caves and the structures they built with the loose rocks that we
can still see today.
We look at it and think, Well, if you didn't use this, if you didn't
preserve it, if you didn't protect it, what would you do with it?
I have spoken with some of the Senators from Utah, and they have
readily conceded there is no oil or gas there to be drilled. There may
be some uranium processing but very little. I asked them: Why wouldn't
you want this area protected? It doesn't have economic value other than
the fact that people will come, tourists will come to Utah to see this
I was troubled when President Trump announced he was going to follow
Secretary Zinke's recommendation and shrink the proposed Bears Ears
Monument as well as another nearby called the Grand Staircase-
Escalante. They would reduce the size of the Bears Ears Monument by 85
percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by 50 percent.
In April, President Trump issued an Executive order requiring the
Department of the Interior to preview and review the previous national
monument designations of President Obama. Although Bears Ears and Grand
Staircase are the first two targets to be hit by President Trump, this
attack on what is known as the Antiquities Act and our national
monuments goes far beyond these two sites.
As part of the review, the President and Secretary of the Interior
Zinke considered changing every national monument that had been created
since 1996, which is more than 50 nationwide. These are areas that have
been protected by Presidents of both political parties. It goes back,
in fact, to a Republican President, Teddy Roosevelt, who realized it
was worth fighting off some of the parochial and economic interests to
preserve pieces of America for future generations.
The list that was subject to the Trump order spans the country. It
includes the Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon, Gold Butte in Nevada, Katahdin
Woods and Waters in Maine, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande
in New Mexico, and several marine monuments.
The administration's decisions to shrink Bears Ears and Grand
Staircase-Escalante goes against continued support for these sites. The
Bears Ears Monument was the first monument to be proposed and advocated
by the five sovereign Tribal nations: The Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute
Mountain Ute, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indians.
The Tribes sought protection because of the important place Bears
Ears has in their cultures. The artifacts within Bears Ears range from
700 to 12,000 years old, providing Tribes with an incredible insight
into the sacred history of their ancestral homeland and bolstering
their deep spiritual connection to the landscape itself. In total, 30
Native-American Tribes with ancestral, historical, and contemporary
ties to the Bears Ears region supported the designation--30.
I might recall, for those who are not students of history--and I am
learning--treatment of Native Americans in this region has again raised
some serious questions about America's past. It wasn't until 1920 that
Native Americans were recognized as citizens of the United States in
many of these areas. It wasn't until 1957 that Native Americans were
given the right to vote in the State of Utah even though Native
Americans had served our country in World War II, such as the Code
Talkers, who were honored by President Trump last week. It wasn't until
the 1970s that the State of Utah built its first public school on a
Tribal area reservation--and only did that after being ordered by the
Federal court. The history of our relationship with these Native-
American Tribes is one that raises questions about our respect for what
they meant to the earliest founding of America and what they mean to us
Mr. President, I see the majority leader has taken the floor. I know
that under the rules he has priority when it
comes to speaking. I wish to finish my remarks, but if I can have the
permission of the Chair by unanimous consent and allow the majority
leader to speak and then resume my statement after he is finished.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. McCONNELL. I thank my friend from Illinois.