[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 198 (Tuesday, December 5, 2017)]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
NATIONAL MONUMENTS DESIGNATION
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, resuming my earlier remarks, the Native-
American Tribes almost unanimously opposed the action that was
announced yesterday by President Trump and Secretary Zinke to shrink
the Bears Ears Monument. They have passed resolutions in support of
Navajo Nation's president said that the President's efforts to shrink
the monument “demonstrates their failure to listen to the concerns of
our people who have lobbied and fought for over 80 years for this
designation.” Even worse, the Navajo Nation made several requests to
meet with President Trump on the issue, to no avail. Those requests
fell on deaf ears, and the administration never met with the leadership
of the Navajo Nation or any of the other Tribes who worked to protect
The administration took these actions under the guise of protecting
this area for future generations. During President Trump's speech in
Utah, he said:
I don't think it is controversial, actually. I think it's
From the folks he was speaking to, it must have seemed that his
comment was correct, but the group the President was speaking to was a
closed-door group of selected supporters of his administration who do
not reflect the feelings of local residents when it comes to the future
of this monument. It reflected the same closed-door process this
administration had used to shrink these monuments.
The administration ignored that more than 2.8 million Americans
weighed in when there was an open public comment period at the
Department of the Interior. Ninety-eight percent of them asked the
President to protect the monuments and to maintain their borders--98
percent. So to say that shrinking these monuments dramatically is not
controversial is to ignore 2.8 million Americans and the Tribes with
whom the President never took the time to meet.
With these reductions, it is clear that Secretary Zinke and President
Trump are choosing politics over science and choosing economic and
political local concerns over the reality of what this particular
monument means to the future of America. They are ignoring Utah's State
Historic Preservation Office and the Interior Department's own staff,
both confirming that there are artifacts throughout Bears Ears that
will now lose their protection because of the decision by President
Trump yesterday. The administration's proposed cuts closely follow the
desires of Utah politicians to shrink the monument.
I had the opportunity to meet with Secretary Zinke and some of my
colleagues a few weeks ago to discuss this reduction in the size of the
monuments. In that meeting, he assured me that any potential cuts to
Bears Ears would continue to protect the actual site's antiquities,
including archeological sites, but according to the internal documents
from the Department of the Interior, there are more than 8,400
archeological sites in the monument, 70 percent of which are
prehistoric. Even more interesting, according to the Department of the
Interior staff, less than 10 percent of the monument has truly been
surveyed. That means we have only scratched the surface of the
antiquities that could be present there.
What value is it to the people of Utah, what value is it to San Juan
County, UT, what value is it to the United States to allow spectators
and tourists to roam over these areas without acknowledging their
sacred status and historic importance? We only get one chance to
preserve our history, and now the President is walking away from that
chance for the largest part of the Bears Ears Monument. Taking away
protections from these precious places is something that could lead to
During the time that I visited Bears Ears, I stopped near Fry Canyon
for a little lunch. I hiked around and saw some amazing artifacts,
which I showed in the earlier photograph. These amazing artifacts are
outside the new boundaries President Trump decided to draw yesterday.
These impressive artifacts are worth preserving, but
President Trump and Secretary Zinke don't agree. They have left Fry
I went to some of the areas where, centuries ago, Native Americans
drew artwork on the sides of these canyons, in the walls. It is still
very visible, and it should be protected. Some of it has been
desecrated and obliterated by graffiti. How can we possibly justify
that? How can we say to future generations: We just didn't care enough
to keep this intact so that you and your children and grandchildren
could appreciate it.
I know there are many more areas like Fry Canyon throughout the
original Bears Ears Monument that are no longer protected because
President Trump and Secretary Zinke decided to draw new boundary lines.
While I was visiting in Moab, UT, in one of the tourist shops there,
I heard a group of about 12 speaking on the other side of the shop, and
I drew a little closer just to hear what they might be saying. They
were speaking in French. They had traveled all the way from Europe to
see this unique area, so critically important to them, so unimportant
to this administration. These tourists' willingness to travel halfway
around the world tells us that we have something special here. I really
wish the President could have met with them and so many others who
create a bustling tourist economy in this area, people who come halfway
around the world to see it. They believe it is something worth seeing.
We should believe it is something worth preserving.
The residents of Moab, just outside the monument, must recognize
this. Once a mining town with a dubious future, Moab saw its economy
decline as the industry left during the 1980s. But the town has
experienced a new rebirth, an economic growth of tourism that now
provides up to 40 percent of the jobs in the area.
Last year, National Geographic named Moab, UT, one of the best
outdoor towns in the world. Ely, MN, is the other U.S. town to receive
that honor. The people of Moab will tell you that the protection of
public lands has been good for their economy, creating good-paying
jobs, new hotels, and new opportunities, and that they support the
Bears Ears Monument. But President Trump didn't pay attention to them,
and neither did Secretary Zinke.
According to the Department of the Interior, the number of visitors
to Utah increased 20 percent between 2011 and 2015 and is projected to
continue increasing. But that didn't impress the Secretary of the
Interior when it came to literally obliterating 80 percent of the
original Bears Ears Monument that President Obama designated.
It was the University of Utah that found that tourists spent more
than $8 billion in their State in 2015, resulting in more than $1
billion in State and local tax revenue and more than 142,000 jobs.
When the State is benefiting so much from tourism, why would they
give away the protection of an area that attracts so many people and
creates so many businesses and jobs in their own State? With public
lands providing such a boon for tourism and economic growth, it is hard
to believe that the Utah congressional delegation has ignored this and
pushed so hard to destroy these monuments.
The dispute has roots in debate over federally controlled land and
Utah's Enabling Act, which was signed more than 100 years ago. When it
became a State, Utahns passed a bill to “agree and declare that they
forever disclaimed all right and title to the unappropriated public
lands . . . and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by
any Indian or Indian tribes.” This provision gave all lands not
specifically claimed by the State of Utah to the Federal Government.
Utah signed up for that. That is how they became a State.
As a result, Utah now has the second most Federal land of any State,
with Federal lands making up about 65 percent of their State, including
five national parks and eight national monuments. These lands are a
source of pride and economic opportunity for so many people. Yet the
politicians of Utah don't appreciate that.
Last year, 15 million people visited national parks and monuments in
Utah, hiking, camping, and learning the traditions and history of the
Native people in that State. Let me say that again. Fifteen million
people from around the world visited public lands in Utah in 2016--an
82 percent increase in visitors over the past decade. This is not only
the right thing to do; it is the economically sensible thing to do to
protect these monuments and these areas. Despite this growth, there is
a push by some of Utah's politicians to force the Federal Government to
give up these lands and remove the protections for the cultural and
archeological resources they contain.
When I met with Secretary Zinke to discuss his recommendations, he
confirmed to me that this decision was not based on protecting some of
the most extraordinary natural resources in our Nation but, rather, on
protecting political alliances.
Every monument designation has had some opposition. Even Roosevelt
faced opposition when he worked to protect many of America's iconic
places, but despite the opposition, President Theodore Roosevelt, a
Republican, protected the Grand Canyon--a controversial decision in his
time--and other special places. Thank goodness he did. Thank goodness
he had the vision to look forward to future generations instead of
looking backward to political promises and political buddies.
Teddy Roosevelt is remembered for his conservation record, preserving
many of the places that make America a great nation, but what this
administration is doing is just the opposite of Teddy Roosevelt's
courage and vision. Repealing protections for Bears Ears and Grand
Staircase-Escalante will not make America great again. It will give up
America's greatness for selfish interest.
I urge President Trump and Secretary Zinke to reconsider their
decision that rescinds our national monument protection. It will be
challenged in court, and it may take a long time to resolve, but I hope
ultimately the courts of this land stand up for the right of a
President of either political party to make these designations, as they
have so many times before. We owe it to America, but we owe it
especially to the Native American Tribes and people who have forever
called this land home to preserve the sites that are so sacred to them,
and we owe it to those in the scientific community and to future
I am hopeful that future generations will be able to visit Bears
Ears--as my wife and I have--and learn about the people and culture
that made America long before we arrived. It is worth the respect of
this generation and future generations, and it is certainly worth it
for us to step forward and to say with vision and with courage that we
stand behind preserving these sites.
I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.