Trump removed national monument protections in Utah, and today the land is up for grabs by anyone with four stakes and no conscience.
Hard-rock miners can now stake a claim in the lands President Trump carved out from Bears Ears National Monument, including Valley of the Gods, seen here.
Amid the soaring sandstone canyons of Bears Ears National Monument are 13,000-year-old cultural artifacts … and uranium. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument harbors copper, uranium, zirconium and other minerals.
Nonetheless, this time last year, over a million acres of Bears Ears were shielded under the national monument protections that Native American tribes and conservationists had worked tirelessly to secure. For 21 years, the Grand Staircase has been protected.
That ended on December 4, 2017. Acting on ill-informed recommendations from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and a rushed public comment period (which nonetheless resulted in near unanimous support for the monuments), President Trump revoked national monument status from 85 percent of Bears Ears and nearly 50 percent of Grand Staircase, replacing them with small, fragmented, and inadequate substitutes. The decision to axe the monuments included a countdown clock which runs out today. Now, anybody with four wooden pickets and no conscience can stake a claim on the land, dig a hard-rock mine, pay no royalties, and walk away at will if their imagined “Gold Rush” turns out to be a pipe dream. All at the expense of our national heritage in one of the most scenic and historic corners of the West.
The law authorizing this kind of public lands giveaway is the General Mining Act of 1872, which Congress passed to spur westward expansion across the American frontier. It awards surface as well as mineral rights to anyone who stakes a claim and finds certain “hard rock” minerals—uranium, gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc, among others—on the land (it does not cover oil and coal, which are subject to a different statutory scheme). The law cries out for reform, although powerful mining companies and their allies in Congress have blocked any meaningful changes.
So, while the administration says that Zinke “adamantly opposes the wholesale sale or transfer of public lands,” their actions prove otherwise. Revoking the monument protections and opening the land to hard-rock mining enables just that “wholesale sale” to happen—with little oversight from the Bureau of Land Management.
Starting today, if someone staking a claim on these sacred and scenic lands finds valuable mineral deposits in their claim, they can purchase the lands to the tune of $2.50 to $5.00 an acre. That’s not a typo. Five bucks an acre for some of our most iconic public lands.
In effect, it’s not really a sell-off of treasured public lands—it could be a give-away. We’ll have to wait and see if anyone takes advantage of Trump and Zinke’s invitation to pillage our public lands.
We know that uranium miners covet Bears Ears. Last May, Energy Fuels Resources sent Zinke a letter warning of a “chilling effect” of the Bears Ears National Monument designation on uranium mining, and asked that that the Interior Department “reduce the size of BENM.”
Communities in Southern Utah know what unfettered uranium mining can do. The Navajo Nation adjacent to Bears Ears has long fought the impacts of uranium development. More than 500 uranium mines have been abandoned on or near their lands; only one has been cleaned up. Most are Superfund sites awaiting the estimated $4 billion to $6 billion required to restore the landscape.
Earthjustice, representing a coalition of conservation groups, has taken the President to court to challenge his unprecedented attack on national monuments. Much is at stake, including critically important historic, cultural and scientific riches. A coalition of five Native American tribes has filed a similar lawsuit, as have Patagonia Works and others. We’re also fighting 3 bills moving through Congress to ratify Trump’s illegal executive order and gut the Antiquities Act, putting all national monuments at risk.
If the court upholds Trump’s actions, critically important parts of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase will be open to mining and other development that could destroy their historic, natural and scientific treasures forever.
Further, the precedent such a decision would set could threaten other national monuments, creating a quick path for vested interests to excavate our public lands for resources, yielding corporate profits at the expense of public values.
The opening of sensitive landscapes in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante to mining demonstrates just how vulnerable our heritage and the proud legacy of public lands protections in America really are.
A decision on our coalition’s lawsuits could come soon. Meanwhile, Earthjustice stands ready to continue the fight to protect our public lands.
The Shuafat refugee camp can be seen across the separation wall from the Israeli settlement Pisgat Ze’ev. Credit: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/IPS
By Bjørnar Moxnes
OSLO, Norway, Feb 2 2018 (IPS)
As a member of the Norwegian parliament, I proudly use my authority as an elected official to nominate the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Nominating the BDS movement for this recognition is perfectly in line with the principles I and my party hold very dear. Like the BDS movement, we are fully committed to stopping an ascendant, racist and right-wing politics sweeping too much of our world, and securing freedom, justice and equality for all people.
Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement and the American Civil Rights movement, the grassroots, Palestinian-led BDS movement is a peaceful, global human rights movement that urges the use of economic and cultural boycotts to end Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.
The BDS movement seeks to end Israel’s half-century of military rule over 4.5 million Palestinians, including the devastating ten-year illegal siege collectively punishing and suffocating nearly 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, the ongoing forcible eviction of Palestinians from their homes, and the theft of Palestinian land through the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
It seeks equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, currently discriminated against by dozens of racist laws, and to secure the internationally-recognized legal right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes and lands from which they were expelled.
Palestinian refugees constitute nearly 50 percent of all Palestinians, and they are being denied their right to return, guaranteed by law to all refugees, simply because of their ethnicity.
The BDS movement’s aims and aspirations for basic human rights are irreproachable. They should be supported without reservation by all democratically-minded people and states.
The international community has a longstanding history of supporting peaceful measures such as boycotts and disinvestment against companies that profit from human rights violations. International support for such measures was critical in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the racist colonial regime in former Rhodesia.
If the international community commits to supporting BDS to end the occupation of Palestinian territory and the oppression of the Palestinian people, new hope will be lit for a just peace for Palestinians, Israelis and all people across the Middle East.
The BDS movement has been endorsed by prominent figures, including the former Nobel Peace Prize winners Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire. It is gaining support from unions, academic associations, churches, and grassroots movements for the rights of refugees, immigrants, workers, women, indigenous peoples and the LGBTQI community. It is increasingly embraced by progressive Jewish groups and anti-racist movements across the world.
Eleven years since BDS’ launch, it’s high time for us to commit to doing no harm, and for all states to withdraw their complicity in Israel’s military occupation, racist apartheid rule, ongoing theft of Palestinian land, and other egregious human rights violations.
Awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement would be a powerful sign demonstrating that the international community is committed to supporting a just peace in the Middle East and using peaceful means to end military rule and broader violations of international law.
My hope is that this nomination can be one humble but necessary step towards bringing forth a more dignified and beautiful future for all peoples of the region.
The post BDS Movement for Palestinian Rights Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize appeared first on Inter Press Service.
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