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Westminster community members attend rally protesting proposal to shrink Utah national monuments

The National Parks Conservation Association and 15 other organizations hosted the rally in response to President Donald Trump’s visit to Utah Monday and his plan to eliminate parts of Bears Ears National Monument, which was established during President Barack Obama’s administration, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

During the public review process, around 99 percent of the over 2.7 million comments offered support for the continued protection of national monuments, according to the Utah Diné Bikéyah, a non-profit, Native American grassroots organization.

Chris Keim, a senior environmental studies major, said he wants to see Bears Ears remain at 1.35 million acres, which is the size the Obama administration had originally designated under the Antiquities Act.

“To reduce the area by 90 percent as Trump proposes to do would not provide enough protection for these sites so that future generations can learn and enjoy them just as I have,” he said.

Keim said he has been to Bears Ears multiple times and continues to visit because of its breathtaking geologic features.

“I believe it’s a moral duty to protect the nature and have a voice. They need our voices and our presence.” — Deyanira Ariza-Velasco, professor of Spanish at Westminster

“No museum that exists can even come close to the experience of walking up to an ancient Anasazi ruin and observing the wall art, which are the tellings of the first peoples to live in this area,” he said.

Josee Stetich, a junior environmental science major, said she learned about the significance of public lands during the Westminster Expedition this semester.

“Being able to see the ears, listen to the songs, sleep under the stars and peer into the windows of the ruins gave us a small taste of the spiritual and cultural significance,” she said.

During the expedition, Stetich said students learned about Bears Ears’ history and how it has been home to various southwestern Native American tribes for thousands of years.

“Protecting these sacred sites not only recognizes that they were here before white settlement and state borders but also the fact that they’re still here and Native history is ongoing,” she said.

At the rally, a Diné tribe member spoke about the importance of protecting these monuments for future generations and keeping them in “one piece — not cut them into fragments.”

Deyanira Ariza-Velasco, a Spanish professor at Westminster, said the continued support of Utah’s national monuments is important to her because she is from Colombia — the second most biodiverse country in the world — and she’s grown up appreciating beautiful places.

“I believe it’s a moral duty to protect the nature and have a voice,” Ariza-Velasco said. “They need our voices and our presence.”


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