All Eyes On Bears Ears
April 9, 2021
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“This war did not spring up on our land, this war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father who came to take our land without a price, and who, in our land, do a great many evil things… This war has come from robbery – from the stealing of our land.” – Spotted Tail
All Eyes On Bears Ears
(Larry Hulst via Getty Images)
The Antiquities Act is the first US national historic preservation policy, designed to provide general protection for any general kind of cultural or natural resource. Signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Act gives a president the ability to “declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated on land owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be national monuments.”
In late 2016, President Obama used his executive authority under the Act to designate two new National Monuments: Bears Ears — 1.35 million acres in Utah — and Gold Butte — 300,000 acres in Nevada. The new desert monuments encompass Native American sites of sacred and archaeological importance, as well as wildlife habitats and hiking and hunting terrain. The designation attempted to protect tens of thousands of cultural artifacts and ancient rock art from commercial and recreational activities, and looting.
Soon after President Trump took office, his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, proposed cutting the size of four to six national monuments and changing the way another six would be managed. For Bears Ears, Zinke recommended Trump pare back its boundaries and ask Congress to lessen restrictions within it. At the urging of Utah’s Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, Zinke also suggested that mining be allowed in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
In late 2017, Trump slashed the size of Bears Ears by 85%, and Grand Staircase-Escalante by 50%. It was the largest rollback of federal land protections in the nation’s history. The administration continued pushing for fewer restrictions and more development.
Once Trump eliminated protections for those two million acres three years ago, energy companies, tourists, and looters began descending on ground considered sacred by several Native American tribes. Oil and gas companies obtained drilling leases in Bears Ears in 2018, and by early 2020 the Interior Department had cleared the way for oil, gas, coal, and uranium mining companies to operate in the Grand Staircase-Escalante.
More than 420,000 people are estimated to have explored Bears Ears last year; well over half a million are expected this year. Volunteers have seen visitors leave trash, loot fossils and remnants of Native American settlements, and scribble graffiti over ancient rock art. Car campers and RVs are seen parked on the rims of canyons and driving through areas identified as archaeological sites, alongside roaring motorcycles and ATVs.
Former New Mexico representative Deb Haaland is President Biden’s new interior secretary, the first Native American cabinet secretary in US history. Haaland arrived in Bluff, Utah Wednesday, to spend three days reviewing, meeting with tribal leaders, and hiking in the area. She is expected to recommend restoring Bears Ears boundaries to at least the 1.35 million acres established by Obama. Advocates see Bears Ears as an early opportunity for Biden to prioritize conservation over fossil fuel extraction on public lands, while responding to a particularly important issue for Native Americans. (National Park Service; NYT, $; WaPo, $)
US Accidentally Backs Fronts For Nationalism
(Prabhat Kumar Verma via Getty Images)
- Last week, Al Jazeera reported that five Hindu right-wing groups with links to Hindu nationalist organizations in India received more than $833,000 in direct payments and loans from the Small Business Administration as part of the US Covid-19 relief package. The money was distributed through programs aimed at providing economic relief to distressed businesses trying to keep their workers employed during the coronavirus crisis.
- A broad coalition of Indian American activists and US-based civil rights organizations has now called on the US Small Business Administration (SBA) to investigate how these right-wing groups received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in federal relief funds.
- A statement issued this week by the Coalition to Stop Genocide in India described the five Hindu groups as “US-based front organizations for Hindutva, the supremacist ideology that is the driving force behind much of the persecution of Christians, Muslims, Dalits and other minorities in India.” (Al Jazeera)
Finally, Cash For Clean Water
- The Biden administration will restore more than $200 million in aid to Palestinians that had been eliminated under President Trump. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement: “[We] plan to restart US economic, development, and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people.”
- The aid includes $75 million in economic and development funds for the occupied West Bank and Gaza, which will provide food and clean water to Palestinians and help small businesses. $150 million will be provided to the UN relief and works agency for Palestine refugees in the near east (UNRWA), a body that supports more than 5 million Palestinian refugees across the region.
- President Biden wants to resurrect Washington’s flailing efforts to push for a two-state resolution for the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and restoring aid is part of that plan. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Biden administration slaps export controls on Chinese firms for aiding PLA weapons development (WaPo, $)
- Exceptionally cold air invades Europe, Alaska (WaPo, $)
- Myanmar ambassador in London locked out of embassy after speaking out against military (WaPo, $)
- Snared: catching poachers to save Italy’s songbirds (Guardian)
- Bus torched in more Northern Ireland violence as British and Irish leaders call for calm (CNN)
- Zimbabwe under renewed pressure to give up Rwanda genocide suspect (Guardian)
- Death toll in Sudan’s West Darfur clashes rises to 132 (Al Jazeera)
- Hide your honeybees: US and Canada gear up for another Asian ‘murder hornet’ season (Al Jazeera)
- Powerful Men Fall, One After Another, in France’s Delayed #MeToo (NYT, $)
Democracy… Except When The Voters Decide
- It’s very hard for adults in Missouri to qualify for Medicaid. Childless adults aren’t eligible for coverage at all through the state’s program, MO HealthNet, and parents can’t make more than 21% of the federal poverty level: $5,400 in 2021 for a family of three. That was scheduled to change come July 1, because last summer voters approved a constitutional amendment that would make Missouri the 38th state to expand Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
- As many as 275,000 additional Missourians would be able to get coverage, including childless adults making under $17,770. But the Republican-controlled legislature in this deep-red state intends to nullify the vote by stripping funding for Medicaid expansion out of the state budget for the next fiscal year.
- The chair of the House Budget Committee said spending on the expansion was irresponsible and wrong for the state, even though the federal government covers 90% of the costs for those included in the expansion, and despite Missouri’s current budget surplus of nearly $1.1 billion. One Republican lawmaker said about last summer’s vote that his constituents had been lied to, and he was “going to protect them from this lie.” (NPR)
A Modest Proposal
- On Thursday, President Biden announced a set of modest moves designed to begin revamping federal gun policy by tweaking the government’s definition of a firearm and more aggressively responding to urban gun violence, which he called an epidemic, and “an international embarrassment.” The changes include reviewing federal policy surrounding ghost guns — handmade or self-assembled firearms that don’t include serial numbers — and the use of stabilizing braces on pistols, a modification that turns the weapon into a short-barreled rifle.
- The President said he wanted ghost gun kits “treated as firearms,” and have key parts labeled with serial numbers; he said he wants pistols modified to be more dangerous to be subject to the National Firearms Act, meaning owners would have to register and pay a fee for the modifications.
- Biden urged the Senate to pass bills already passed in the House to expand background checks. He also called on Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which would close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” to prevent dating partners and stalkers convicted of domestic violence or abuse from purchasing and owning firearms.
- “Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges upon the Second Amendment,” the president said, adding: “Whether Congress acts or not, I’m going to use all of the resources at my disposal as president of the United States to protect Americans from gun violence.” (CBS)
Additional USA News
- NRCC warns donors Trump will find out if they opt out of monthly donations (WaPo, $)
- Border agents took 172,331 into custody in March, statistics show (WaPo, $)
- Intelligence forecast sees a post-coronavirus world upended by climate change and splintering societies (WaPo, $)
- Breonna Taylor died more than a year ago. But US policing has barely changed (Guardian)
- Sea-level rise is creating ‘ghost forests’ on an American coast (Guardian)
- North Carolina’s bill regulating gender would be terrible for kids — not just trans ones (WaPo, $)
- The ‘blue wall of silence’ is crumbling in the Derek Chauvin trial. Why this case could be a tipping point. (NBC)
- Virginia legalizes marijuana (Vox)
- Joe Manchin: I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster (WaPo, $)
- A Battle Over Water Comes to a Sweet End (NYT, $)
It’s Not Oversleeping, It’s Literal Beauty Rest!
- In recent years, biologists and other scientists have become increasingly interested in how humans and other creatures make their way through their surroundings. A new study of grizzly bears and how their outdoor lives compare to ours shows that grizzlies move across the landscape much like most people do, by choosing flat paths over slopes and gentle speeds over sprints.
- The study expands our understanding of how a natural drive to save energy shapes animals’ behaviors, including ours. It adds to accumulating research suggesting humans, as a species, tend to be physically lazy, with a hard-wired inclination to avoid activity.
- Illustrating this innate urge to void exertion is a neurological study done in 2018, wherein the brain scans of volunteers indicated they were far more attracted to images of people in chairs and hammocks than of people in motion.
- What appears to be an inborn preference for not moving made sense once, when hunting and gathering demanded hard effort and plentiful calories, and resting under a tree did not. Now with food readily available, inactivity makes less sense. The implications for health and weight management, while clear, still don’t move the exercise motivation needle — unless you’re good at imagining one of those grizzlies is chasing you. (NYT, $)
Additional Weekend Reads
- Saks Says No To Fur, The Latest Fashion Seller To Go Fur-Free (NPR)
- Russia May Have Found a New Way to Censor the Internet (Wired)
- Monkeys thought to have escaped private collection on loose in Cincinnati (Guardian)
- Twitter won’t let federal archivists host Trump’s tweets on Twitter (ArsTechnica)
- Merry Clayton: ‘Gimme Shelter left a dark taste in my mouth’ (Guardian)
- This Sticker Absorbs Sweat—and Might Diagnose Cystic Fibrosis (Wired)
- Thinking inside the box: the Welsh teen who tried to post himself home from Australia (Guardian)
- How Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency policy works (ArsTechnica)
- How Strong Is King Kong? And Could He Even Stand Up? (Wired)
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