First there was the Dakota Access Pipeline which has brought together Native Americans from across the country in protest, now comes a potentially even bigger scandal.
A bill has been entered in the US House of Representatives by Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz to take over 100, 000 acres of protected Ute tribal lands and give them to oil and mining companies. The land is known as the Bears Ears and is likely to hotly contested.
The land in Eastern Utah is currently protected and indeed the President is seeking to have the area designated a national park and Bears Ears a national monument. The bill seeks to block this move and remove the current protection.
Bears Ears sits alongside the Canyonlands National Park and the Glen Canyon National Recreation area and is a significant cultural site with approximately 100,000 Native American archeological sites. The sites have been subject to significant vandalism and desecration over the years particularly latterly.
It is thought Bears Ears has been inhabited for over 11,000 years and many of the South Western tribes such as the Navajo, Ute and Paiute have many connections to the area.
Unfortunately for the area it is also rich in various minerals including uranium and potash. There are also some deposits of tar sands present in some parts of the park as well. The areas around the protected lands are already dotted with oil rigs and the mining companies are keen to move into this area too.
A coalition has been set up between many of the Native American tribes to attempt to block this bill and protect the lands. The initiative included in the bill would favor mining interests above land conservation which is why it’s so important that it is stopped to protect the area.
You can see coverage and some documentaries about the area on US National and local TV, although people based outside the US will need to change their IP address by using a residential vpn service to avoid the region locking operated by the major TV companies.
Bishop and Chaffetz both are attempting to bypass the Antiquities act by this legislation known as the Public Lands Initiative. Critics say that it is simply a development bill designed to support mining and encourage the exploitation of land for fossil fuels. Currently in the opposition there are nearly two hundred tribes acting to protect this beautiful landscape in South Utah.
Chicago Tribune Article – Dakota Pipeline Protests