Despite protests from conservationists and local tribe leaders the Trump administration will allow companies to start staking claims on sections of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah so the new stakeholders can conduct hard rock mining on the formerly protected lands.

It is outrageous to witness the dismantling of the Bears Ears national monument, in what constitutes a serious attack on Indigenous peoples’ rights in the USA.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, noted that the previous administration’s decision to create the monument protected thousands of sacred sites which are central to the preservation of regional Native culture.

Trump’s decision to reduce Bears Ears by about 85% “exposes thousands of acres of sacred lands and archaeological sites to the threats of desecration, contamination and permanent destruction.”

However, a group of Democratic senators has introduced a bill to fight back against Trump and Republicans in Congress.

In spite of widespread opposition, the Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to move forward with allowing stakeholders to claim plots of land, and has determined the process will be governed by the General Mining Law of 1872, which covers mining for metals such as copper, gold, silver and uranium.

The process for staking a claim remains much as it did during the Gold Rush. It’s really the last law still on the books from that Manifest Destiny era encouraging a resources free-for-all.

A prospector hammers four poles into the ground corresponding to the four points of a parcel and then has 30 days to record the claim at the local BLM office.

The costs of claiming are low: a $212 filing fee, and an annual maintenance fee of $150.

Eco Watch / Crickey Conservation Society 2018.

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