ACTION ALERT: Congress Plots Native Land Grab for Oil
October 22, 2016 CREDO Action from Working Assets & Dan Zukowski / EcoWatch
For the first time in more than 100 years, the federal government could steal fragile, sacred land from Native American tribes and hand it over to the fossil fuel industry. Utah Republican Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz along with Sen. Mike Lee recently introduced a bill that would strip away protections for 100,000 acres of Ute tribal lands to allow for oil drilling and uranium mining.
ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress to Stop the Modern Day Native American Land Grab Josh Nelson / CREDO Action from Working Assets
The petition to the US Congress reads:
"Reject the Utah Public Lands Initiative Act and any other legislation that would strip away sacred, fragile lands from Native American tribes and hand it over to the oil and mining industry."
It's simply deplorable: For the first time in more than 100 years, the federal government could steal fragile, sacred land from Native American tribes and hand it over to the fossil fuel industry.
Utah Republican Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz along with Sen. Mike Lee recently introduced a bill that would strip away protections for 100,000 acres of Ute tribal lands to allow for oil drilling and uranium mining. The bill would also prevent President Obama from designating 18 million acres of unprotected land at Bears Ears a national monument. (1)
This legislation is a massive giveaway to the oil and mining industry and an attack on the indigenous people who have lived on this land for more than 11,000 years. We must act now to stop this bill in its tracks.
This legislation is another attempt by Rep. Bishop to advance his campaign against the Antiquities Act, a law that allows the president to designate land a national monument. It's responsible for creating many of our national treasures including the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado.
Most recently, at the urging of tens of thousands of CREDO activists and our allies, President Obama designated more than 87,000 acres in northern Maine a national monument, despite pushback from Rep. Bishop and other extreme, anti-conservation Republicans. (2)
This time, Rep. Bishop is going even further by attempting to rip away ancestral homelands from the Ute Indian tribe and hand them over to the fossil fuel industry.
As Eric Ewert, professor of geography at Weber State University in Utah, put it, Rep. Bishop's legislation is "a fossil fuel development bonanza and public land giveaway that significantly rolls back existing protections for Utah's wildlands. It was written behind closed doors with county commissioners and industry developers" and "would be devastating for our public wildlands and Utah's tourism economy." (3)
Americans across the country, including hundreds of thousands of CREDO activists, have voiced their opposition to handing over Native lands to the corporate oil and mining industry at Oak Flat in Arizona and for the Dakota Access pipeline in the upper Midwest.
We must stand in solidarity with Native communities and allies on the ground who are risking life and limb to protect these lands from further destruction by the fossil fuel industry.
(September 20, 2016) -- Even as the Dakota Access Pipeline protest in Standing Rock has galvanized Native Americans across the US, a bill introduced in the US House of Representatives by Utah Republican Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz seeks to take 100,000 acres of Ute tribal lands and hand them over to oil and mining companies. Will Bears Ears be the site of the next standoff?
The proposed bill also seeks to remove protection from 18 million acres of land in eastern Utah and prevent President Obama from designating the Bears Ears area a national monument.
Adjoining Canyonlands National Park and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Bears Ears is an unprotected culturally significant region that contains more than 100,000 Native American archeological sites. These sacred sites are subject to continual looting and desecration. More than a dozen serious looting cases were reported between May 2014 and April 2015.
The area has been inhabited for at least 11,000 years. Many Southwestern tribes have longstanding connections to this land, including Navajo, Ute and Paiute peoples. The Navajo Nation and the White Mesa Ute Reservation border Bears Ears. Rock paintings and petroglyphs are found throughout the area.
The area is rich in mining deposits including uranium and potash with some deposits of tar sands present as well. Oil and gas companies are eyeing the area for drilling. The area around Bears Ears, as well as Canyonlands and Arches National Park, are already dotted with oil rigs.
Writing in the May/June 2015 issue of Sierra, Julian Smith reported on an area just north of Bears Ears. "The air was full of harsh mechanical noises and a petroleum smell," she wrote.
An unprecedented coalition of Native American tribes has come together to protect these lands. They include members of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and Ute Indian Tribe. The organization traces its beginnings to Navajo leader Mark Maryboy, who is credited with launching the effort to preserve Bears Ears.
A long-time activist and one-time county commissioner, he has tried to broker a deal with a former moderate Utah Republican, but Tea Party conservatives and anti-public lands politicians have killed all prospects of a deal.
The proposed Public Lands Initiative (PLI) would appropriate 26 percent of Ute reservation lands and would favor mining interests over land conservation. In a July 23 letter to both Chaffetz and Bishop, the co-chairs of the Inter-Tribal Coalition wrote, "We do not see how further discussions can be productive."
In a county that is half Native American, they note that under the proposed legislation, there is "only a weak advisory role for tribes" and that the "PLI bill is diametrically opposed" to their interests.
In an op-ed by Sen. Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake City), he calls the PLI "a flawed, political, one-sided, fossil fuel lobby dream piece of legislation."
Bishop and Chaffetz both oppose the Antiquities Act, under which President Obama could declare Bears Ears a national monument. Bishop went so far as to insert himself into Maine's discussions around creation of the Kathadin Woods and Waters National Monument.
In addition to robbing Native Americans of their lands, the PLI also gives anti-government activist Clyven Bundy what he wants: opening Recapture Canyon, another area with many sacred Native American sites, to motorized vehicles. Bundy supported San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman when they staged an illegal ATV ride though the canyon in 2014, desecrating Native American burial grounds.
A poll conducted in May 2016 found that 71 percent of Utah voters support the Bears Ears national monument. Support was widespread across geographic regions, age, gender and political party affiliation. The Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News and Washington Post have all come out in support of the national monument.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) has been actively working in support of Bears Ears and protection of the red rock wilderness in Utah. In a Sept. 15 blog post, they call the PLI "the worst 'wilderness' bill we've seen in Congress."
Standing Rock has brought together 200 tribes, many sending representatives to the protest site from faraway states. The Chicago Tribune wrote, "Many of the Native Americans who have come here speak of a spiritual reawakening taking place." Their next battleground may be in southeastern Utah.
1 Dan Zukowski, "Federal Bill Seeks First Native American Land Grab in 100 Years," EcoWatch, Sept. 20, 2016.
2 Richard Pérez-Peña, Obama Designates National Monument in Maine, to Dismay of Some," The New York Times, Aug. 24, 2016.
Eric Ewart, "Rep. Rob Bishop's Public Lands Initiative is a public lands disaster," Standard Examiner, Sept. 15, 2016.
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