[Beginning today, the Department of Interior has opened public comment on the process for reviewing recent National Monument designations (including Bears Ears in Utah), started by Trump’s executive order (thanks to Terry Tempest Williams for making me aware of this opening).  Below is the comment I submitted.  Please, if you care at all about the environment, climate change, economic, social, racial justice, or if you simply don’t want to see oil executives getting rich off public resources, submit your own comment.  Visit regulations.gov to submit (search for “DOI-2017-0002” if needed), and/or read the Sierra Club’s summary of what’s at stake.]

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Bear’s Ears National Monument.  Photo by Josh Ewing/Bears Ears Coalition

I fear that this review is merely a smokescreen to allow extractivist special interests like oil and gas companies an entry point into exploiting our collective natural resources for the profit of a few already-rich elites. I have no confidence in Ryan Zinke’s ability, or desire, to view this process impartially, given his ties to the extractivist industry and his denialist positions on climate change’s causes and effects. The Trump administration has systematically turned our government agencies most responsible for stewarding our natural areas over to those who, like him, want nothing more than to make as much money as possible. This executive-order-mandated process is merely a step along that immoral, irresponsible path, which I believe is corrupted from the start, and I fear is leading to illegitimate ends.

However, I also hope for the best for this country and those who live among its natural environs. I believe in the basic decency of those who staff institutions of government such as the Department of Interior, even as I have no faith in their bosses – just as I believe in the basic decency of Americans, even as I have no faith in our President. It is also my hope that some of those decent people will be the ones to read these comments of mine, and it is in that hope that I say the following:

These sites are sacred. Not just because a group of Indigenous tribes say so – although their words should be reason enough – or because I, having visited 30 or more national parks and monuments in my life so far, have had personal experiences of touching the divine while in these sites. They are sacred because the earth is sacred. The phrase ‘mother earth’ is apt, because all life comes from her, including our own. We forget this sometimes, and while one essential function of natural areas such as these listed monuments is to remind us of our place within the earth’s life-giving system, these protected areas and others like them are crucial to allowing the earth to maintain that system.

People like Secretary Zinke seem to think that our national economy is the root of all life. They forget that, without a healthy environment, there can be no economy. And without keeping large areas of the environment protected from the destructive forces within our economy, there can be no healthy environment. And of course, without a healthy environment, there can be no life.

And so I urge those in charge of this review process to consider all life as stakeholders, and those who wish to exploit and destroy these monuments as anti-life. I am confident that if this broader perspective is considered, the protections for these listed national monuments will remain in place. That is the outcome I not only wish to see, but will fight for. Should this review end with the Department of Interior taking the side not of life, but of extraction, destruction, and death, I and countless thousands of my fellow citizens will support every non-violent means of opposition open to us.

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