Jewish leaders urge Trump to preserve Bears Ears
Jennifer Yachnin, E&E News reporter (https://www.eenews.net)
Published: Wednesday, April 19, 2017
A coalition of Jewish activists is the latest group to urge President Trump to retain the Bears Ears National Monument designation, asserting that the southeast Utah site could be a “cautionary tale about the fragility of current protections” for public lands.
In a letter to Trump today, the leaders of seven organizations asked the president not to rescind the national monument status President Obama bestowed on the 1.35-million-acre site in late December.
“Stewardship of our national parks, monuments and other public lands and preservation of our historic and cultural heritage is an important part of our moral responsibility as caretakers of God’s creation for the next generation,” says the letter.
It’s signed by Jewish Council for Public Affairs President and CEO David Bernstein, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life Chairman and Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, Hebrew College Rabbinical School Rector Rabbi Art Green, National Religious Partnership for the Environment Chairman and Rabbi Steve Gutow, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Director and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, and Hazon CEO Nigel Savage.
The letter also calls on Trump to protect other monuments previously created under the Antiquities Act, the 1906 law that allows presidents to declare protections for areas of historic and scientific interest.
“Such places supply blessings of sustenance, provide critical habitat, and offer us natural space for prayer, spiritual renewal, and awe,” the letter says. “In addition, many of these monuments celebrate cultural diversity, a key hallmark of our great nation.”
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) and the state’s all-GOP congressional delegation, including House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, have voiced support for repealing the monument’s status. Bishop has argued that Trump could do so, or at least repeal a significant portion of the monument, using the Antiquities Act.
Conservationists have countered that argument, saying that the act does not give a commander in chief the ability to undo a monument’s status. No president has sought to do so to date, although the boundaries of sites including the former Olympic National Monument have been altered.
The Jewish leaders argue in their letter that abolishing the Bears Ears monument would serve as a “cautionary tale about the fragility of current protections on our public lands.”
“You put forth in your Inaugural Address the need for unity, stating that we share one heart and one home. This sentiment is truly manifest in the diversity of our public lands — parks, monuments, and living classrooms that showcase the variety of stories that unite us,” the letter says.
Trump has not commented on whether he will repeal the Bears Ears site, but a former member of Trump’s Energy Department transition team said earlier this month he expects the president to issue a new executive order targeting the Antiquities Act (E&E News PM, April 4).
The White House routinely directs questions on the Bears Ears site to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has previously vowed to visit Utah and the monument but has not yet scheduled travel to the state.
In recent weeks, proponents of public lands have peppered Trump and Zinke with letters urging the retention of Bears Ears, including Democratic senators, the Next 100 Coalition and the Conservation for Economic Growth Coalition. The Center for Western Priorities also launched an ad campaign (Greenwire, April 12).