CELDF

Blog: Downsizing Nature: The Fight for Bears Ears and Beyond

This week, President Trump signed proclamations downsizing two natural areas established as national monuments in Utah – Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante – by 85 percent and 46 percent respectively. If court challenges are unsuccessful, over a million acres of protected land will be removed from Bears Ears alone.

Then, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke began the process of cutting down six others, specifically to allow grazing, mining, drilling, motorized vehicle use, and commercial fishing on those lands.

In the politics of yesteryear, forever was forever. Once designated as a national monument under the Antiquities Act, it was assumed that these soaring testaments would be forever placed beyond the hands of man.

Now, everything is on the table. The only difference between then and now is who sits at the desk of the President.

Which is nuts. Basically, these lands (along with lands protected as national forests, refuges, and national parks), are now only protected to the extent that today’s elected officials feel they should be protected.

We don’t do that with the right to free speech, or the right to a free press.

A right to free speech is irrelevant on a dead planet.

We don’t do that with the right to free speech, or the right to a free press.

Why? Because those rights are constitutionally protected, and while the edges of those protections may change from generation to generation, their core meanings remain intact.

Yet we allow environmental protections to be lifted on the whim of whomever is in office at the time. What’s the sense in that?

It just means that we’ll preserve nature for now, until we need to use it later, and then we’ll re-open it for business.

Maybe, just maybe, we should be focused on protecting nature with the highest legal protections that exist within our system. After all, not only does nature have a right to exist, morally and ethically, but our exercise of our constitutional freedoms are themselves dependent on nature’s provision of clean air and clean water.

A right to free speech is irrelevant on a dead planet.

What will it take to shift nature into that status? Massive change driven by all of those who care about the planet, to elevate ecosystems and nature into state constitutions and eventually into the federal constitution. Along the way, we’ll have to ignore the “big green” environmental groups who continue to put their faith in lesser-than constitutional protection for nature.

Until that happens, places like Bears Ears will be seen as nothing more than a political chit to be traded away.

CELDF is in the forefront with our partner communities, leading the way to transform nature as property, to nature as a right-bearing entity. More than three dozen communities in ten states have adopted CELDF-drafted Rights of Nature laws, establishing the rights of ecosystems to exist, flourish, and evolve – and we are working globally in Nepal, Sweden, Australia, Colombia, and beyond to advance nature’s rights.

Your support makes our work to advance Rights of Nature possible! Please donate today!

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Featured image: Goosenecks State Park Overlook by Bureau of Land Management, Flikr CC