Protected Land, Including Mountain Bike Trails, Under Threat In USA

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December 5, 2017

Governments trying to get publicly owned or protected land sold off (or access laws/designations changed) for a quick buck seems to be an emerging theme of the early 21st century, with HR621 rearing its head earlier this year in the US, and a massive selloff of UK forests averted in 2011. Of course, these issues affect mountain bikers along with other outdoor users, and this morning our inboxes were inundated from multiple sources about an apparent fresh attempt in the US.

Bear Ears Coalition
Allen Canyon and Abajo Mountains (photo by Adriel Heisey).

Two listed monuments in Utah include significant Native American sites, including cliff dwellings around a thousand years old, and the land areas have been massively reduced with, it seems, a bit of disingenuousness about their status. President Obama designated these national monuments, and it seems this latest development may be tit-for-tat action by President Trump and Republicans to reverse pretty much anything Obama did in office.

In all, these are moves that make it much easier for these historic outdoor sites to be used for not just commercial but landscape altering industrial uses, such as oil and gas development. The best summaries we’ve seen are here at the Grand Canyon Trust, here from the Bear Ears Coalition, and here at Patagonia.

Bear Ears Coalition
Many ancient Native American cliff dwellings are now under threat by the repeal of these protections.

It seems two million acres of land have had their protection removed, and apparently the authority to do this doesn’t even rest with the executive but would require a vote in congress. Among many other things, these areas are currently used for mountain biking, as recounted earlier this year on Dirt Rag, (it’s a great account of someone venturing outside of their typical kind of riding) though unfortunately it seems their conclusion of nothing happening fast was incorrect.

Bear Ears Coalition
The area is used by hikers, climbers, kayakers, and mountain bikers (photo by Mickey Schaeffer).

The Bear Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, who you can read more about here, have not only objected but also started legal action to continue protecting the region. They write:

“President Trump’s action to revoke and replace the Bears Ears National Monument is not only an attack on the five sovereign nations with deep ties to the Bears Ears region, it is a complete violation of the separation of powers enshrined in the US Constitution. No president has ever revoked and replaced a national monument before because it is not legal to do so. In light of this blatant violation of law, the Navajo Nation, NARF (representing the Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe), and the Ute Indian Tribe filed a lawsuit on Monday, December 4, 2017 to defend Bears Ears.”

Bear Ears Coalition
Valley of the Gods (Photo by Josh Ewing).
Bear Ears Coalition
White Canyon (photo by Ray Bloxham).
Bear Ears Coalition
Many historic native american carvings and paintings are now threatened (photo by Jonathan Bailey).
Bear Ears Coalition
Grand Gulch in Cedar Mesa (photo by Adriel Heisey).

(All photos courtesy of the Bear Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition)

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