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Trump Moves to Shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments

Swamp Stomp

Volume 17, Issue 47

President Trump recently confirmed with lawmakers in Utah that he is planning to shrink the size of two national monuments in the state, according to a press release from the office of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R). The announcement comes in response to the recommendations laid out by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who in April was tasked by President Trump via executive order with reevaluating all national monuments over 100,000 acres in size designated since 1996.

Currently twenty-seven such monuments across the country, including several marine parks, are on Secretary Zinke’s list for proposed policy changes or boundary modifications. “We believe in the importance of protecting these sacred antiquities,” Hatch said in response to the announcement. “But Zinke and the Trump administration rolled up their sleeves to dig in, talk to locals, talk to local tribes and find a better way to do it. We’ll continue to work closely with them moving forward to ensure Utahns have a voice.”

The two national monuments in Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears, were both designated by executive order, the former by President Bill Clinton in 1996 and the latter by President Barack Obama in 2016. Both national monuments have been objects of intense controversy in Utah state politics.

Critics of the monuments, including Sen. Hatch, have argued that the designations represent federal overreach into the state’s affairs and that they unfairly restrict land use, such as mining and grazing, that could otherwise bring money into the state. In the case of Grand Staircase-Escalante, extractive industries hoping to mine the estimated 30 billion tons of coal on the monument’s Kaiparowits Plateau were particularly put off by the designation.

“It sounds like the voices of western communities are finally being heard and the promise to preserve grazing inside monuments might finally be kept by the federal government,” wrote Ethan Lane, director of the Public Lands Council at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, in an email to The Washington Post. “This action would be a win for any western community that depends on ranching to stay afloat.”

Supporters of the monuments, including many Native American tribes from the region, argue that the designations are justified for both environmental and culture reasons; not only are Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears breathtaking sights of natural beauty rich in biodiversity, but the land encompassing the Bears Ears monument in particular is considered sacred by many southwestern tribes, including the Diné (Navajo), Hopi, and Ute, from whence the state of Utah gets its name.

“It was always and has been a spiritual place,” said Al Yazzie, a tribal member of the Navajo Nations’s Low Mountain chapter, about Bears Ears. “It’s the white people that came and tried to nullify that. And we had to fight to get it – to play the game the Western way, the government way, to have it reestablished as a national monument, as a sacred place for us.”

Despite President Trump’s proposed cuts, it is not yet clear if the president has the power to modify national monuments without permission from Congress. Under the Antiquities Act of 1906, the president may act to preserve lands that are scientifically, historically or culturally significant, yet it says nothing about the ability to rescind formerly designated monuments and natural parks.

The last president to modify natural monument boundaries was president John F. Kennedy, who in the 1960’s rearranged the borders of the Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. However, this occurred before the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which legal experts say may bar the president from reducing or abolishing any preexisting designation.

“The president simply does not have the authority to modify these land and ocean treasures,” said Peter Shelley, a senior counsel at Conservation Law Foundation. “More than 120 legal scholars agree that the purpose of the Antiquities Act is clear: to protect areas of scientific, cultural or historical value – not to decimate them.”

A number of environmental organizations and businesses, including the Wilderness Society, Southern Utah Wilderness alliance and outdoor gear companies Patagonia and REI have threatened to bring legal action against the Trump administration should any changes to the monuments be made.

At the heart of this issue over public lands in the west, which has been raging for decades, is how much power the federal government should have in deciding how a state’s lands are allowed to be used. This is of critical concern in western states because, compared to eastern states, a greater percentage of their land’s are federally owned; no state west of the Rocky Mountains except Hawai’i has less than 29% of their land owned by the federal government. In the east, the state with the most federally owned land is North Carolina at only 11.8%.

Even as President Trump and Secretary Zinke move forward with the monument amendments, it could take five to six years to fully effect them, according to legal experts. “This process will be very legally vulnerable because it will have to deal with all the scientific, environmental and social conclusions produced during the first round of management plan creation,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This would be a massive hurdle for the administration.”


  • Barringer, Felicity and Geoff McGhee. “Tracking Proposed Monument Reductions in the West.” Public Lands & The West Blog. The Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University, 21 September 2017. Web. 28 October 2017.
  • Eilperin, Juliet. “Environmental and outdoor groups vow to fight national monument reductions.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post (WP Company LLC), 18 September 2017. Web. 18 November 2017.
  • Friedman, Lisa, Nadja Popovich and Matt Mccann. “27 National Monuments Are Under Review. Here are Five to Watch.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 August 2017. Web. 28 October 2017.
  • Friedman, Lisa and Julie Turkewitz. “Interior Secretary Proposes Shrinking Four National Monuments.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 August 2017. Web. 18 November 2017.
  • Yachnin, Jennifer. “National Monuments: Angry greens promise lawsuits if Trump acts on Zinke memo.” E&E News PM. E&E News, 18 September 2017. Web. 28 October 2017.
  • Yachnin, Jennifer. “National Monuments: Trump to slash Bears Ears, Grand Staircase – Hatch.” E&E News PM. E&E News, 27 October 2017. Web. 28 October 2017.
Posted on

New Steps Being Taken To Combat Deadly Bat Disease

Swamp Stomp

Volume 17, Issue 46

I recently visited Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho and was really excited to explore these unusually landscape as well as the extensive caves. You can imagine my surprise when I was asked if any of the clothing I was currently wearing had been worn while I was in any other cave since 2005. It was explained to me about how a lot of bat species around the world have been affected by a fungus that causes white nose syndrome which is deadly to bats and they were trying to prevent the spreading of the disease. When I got back I knew I had to include an article in the newsletter and I am so happy to be able to include one about what is being done to try and help the bats.

It was announced on July 17, 2017 that the Fish and Wildlife Service has increased their efforts to fight a devastating fungal disease that is threatening the U.S. bat population. They are creating grants that total a little over $1 million for state-level programs targeting white-nose syndrome.

The total dollars going to these grants is $1,016,784. The grants are being spread across 37 states and the District of Columbia. The size of the allocations going to individual states ranges from $12,440 for Arizona to $30,000 each for several states including Kentucky, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

“Bats are beneficial in many ways,” Jeremy Coleman, national white-nose syndrome coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement. “While state natural resource agencies are on the front lines of bat conservation, many have limited options for responding to this devastating disease without these funds.”

Some of the money for the grants is coming from the FWS’s “Science Support” component, which the Trump administration’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal would get rid of.

A fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans is the cause of white-nose syndrome, which affects most but not all bat species. It was estimated that more than 6 million bats have died from the disease through 2012, and officials say many more have died since then.

White-nose syndrome has been found in more than 30 states and five Canadian provinces, endangering the insect-gobbling animal that’s helpful to farmers. It has also captured the attention of Congress, with lawmakers holding hearings, touring caves and using past budgets to direct funding for research (Greenwire, April 6, 2012).

The fungus was not discovered in U.S. until the winter of 2006-2007, when it was located in New York. Since the discovery, the FWS has distributed some $7 million in related grants. The funding is part of what the agency describes as “a Service-led, cooperative, international effort involving more than 100 state, federal, tribal, academic and nonprofit partners.”

“Funding from the Service provides state fish and wildlife agencies with critically important support to manage and mitigate the spread of the disease to new areas of the country,” Nick Wiley, president of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a statement.

Nick Sharp, a biologist with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, added that “we simply would not have the capacity to do this work” without the federal funding.

More bats were discovered earlier this year to have white-nose syndrome. These bats were the Southeastern bat population in a cave in Shelby County, Ala. With this new species discovered, a total of nine hibernating bat species in North America are known to be afflicted by the fungus. The Endangered Species Act protects three of the nine species.

FWS and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have created the Bats for the Future Fund, a competitive grant program to fund research.

Source: Doyle, Michael. “Devastating Bat Disease Targeted by New Federal Grants.” Greenwire. E&E News, 17 July 2017. Web. 17 July 2017.

Posted on

FERC Approves Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Swamp Stomp

Volume 17, Issue 45

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given the green light to the construction of the contentious Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a multi-billion dollar energy project designed to transport fracked natural gas from the shale-rich Marcellus basin in West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina.

This comes less than a month after North Carolina governor Roy Cooper and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality rejected the ACP’s environmental plan submitted by regional energy companies Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas on the grounds that it did not meet the state’s erosion and sediment control requirements.

Under the Clean Water Act, states have the right to deny permits to large-scale projects if they deem them a threat to their water quality, though FERC has the authority to override the states’ decision. The energy partners have 15 days after receiving the letter of disapproval to resubmit the plan with additional information required by the N.C. DEQ, or 60 days to challenge the agency’s decision and request a court hearing.

The FERC’s decision, while consistent with its past record of approving the majority of pipeline proposals it reviews, was not unanimous. In a surprise dissenting vote, Obama-appointed commission member Cheryl LaFleur, who had never voted against any proposal in her previous seven years of working on the commission, determined that the ACP developers had not provided sufficient evidence that the pipeline “as proposed is in the public interest.”

The proposed 600 mile pipeline is set to pass through thousands of streams and creeks, many of which feed into the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and into North Carolina’s coastal wetlands. The proposed route also passes through West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest and Virginia’s George Washington National Forest in addition to 2,900 private properties in all three states.

Dominion energy and their partners argue that the ACP will “support 17,240 jobs during construction and 2,200 operation jobs” in the economically depressed areas that the project will pass through, and highlight that the project is necessary to support the growing natural gas demand from public utilities, small businesses and a growing population in Virginia and North Carolina.

Yet many prominent environmental groups and companies say that the economic benefits of the pipeline are exaggerated; the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that only 39 permanent local jobs will be created by the project’s construction, and PJM, the company charged with managing the mid-Atlantic region’s electric grid, projects that demand for natural gas will remain flat for the coming decade as sources of renewable energy become cheaper.

Of particular concern to landowners in the path of the ACP, many of whom are minorities who rely upon agriculture for a living, is the potential for Dominion Energy to exercise eminent domain over their lands now that the FERC has deemed the pipeline “in the interest of the public.” Dr. Ryan Emanuel, a member of the Lumbee Tribe in North Carolina and professor of forestry and environmental resources at North Carolina State University, highlights the issue in a letter to Science magazine, writing that “the Atlantic Coast Pipeline developer’s preferred route disproportionately affects indigenous peoples in North Carolina. The nearly 30,000 Native Americans who live within 1.6 km of the proposed pipeline make up 13.2% of the impacted population in North Carolina, where only 1.2% of the population is Native American.”

As of now, due to the permitting set backs from the N.C. DEQ, Dominion Energy and partners have pushed back the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s starting date from late 2018 to late 2019. Unless the FERC eventually decides to override North Carolina’s decision, however, the future of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline remains unclear.