« Return to this article

Know the West

A drilling injustice


Mining damage isn’t the only concern for Bears Ears National Monument (“Local hands on public lands,” HCN, 3/19/18); it’s also about the tribes whose stories live there. Utah’s public lands are now a national sensation, but the way Bears Ears is being lumped into this larger attack on public lands doesn’t do the place justice. The Trump administration is making decisions that disproportionately affect Native nations. Instead of considering the five tribes who worked for decades for that designation, the Bureau of Land Management went ahead and sold off all 13 parcels for leasing.

I went to Utah to understand what mining would mean. Our guides stressed that drilling Bears Ears for dirty fuels represents a much bigger issue — a human rights problem. Youth tribal members shared what Bears Ears means to them — unity and cultural preservation. Eliminating Bears Ears isn’t about the actual acres being lost but about the disregard of its value to these nations. Leasing these lands is detrimental enough, but drilling would be a grave injustice.

Susana Reyes
Sierra Club vice president
Glendale, California