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Editorial

Trump decision to scale back national parks disrupts nature, future preservation

December 7, 2017

Trump recently made a proclamation effectively shrinking the size of two national parks in the U.S.: the Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante parks in Utah.

According to an article from USA Today, “The Bears Ears National Monument will shrink 85 percent to 201,876 acres, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will be cut by 39 percent to 1 million acres.”

Trump is framing the decision as a victory for state’s rights, and the proclamations will allow for hunting and grazing on what was once protected land. This might seem mild, but changing the status of the land to private opens it up to the possibility of being developed or drilled for oil. It’s also the largest reduction of protected land in U.S. history.

In a country that is already reducing its amount of untouched land through farming and urban development, this is a step towards a future where natural ecosystems are a thing of the past. Trump’s decision is the beginning of a slippery slope that might ultimately see all of the national parks chopped up for human use.

These national parks are important for a number of reasons, the first of which is that they serve as refuges for rare plants, animals and ecosystems that have mostly died out throughout the rest of the country. By removing these refuges, we run the risk of destroying some of these species and ecosystems forever.

Beyond the natural aspect of the problem, these historical monuments are part of our heritage as Americans. The two that Trump intends to shrink are relatively young – the Bears Ears was designated in 2016 and the Grand-Staircase Escalante in 1996 – but many of the older national parks in the country date back to the late 1800s. Trump was easily able to remove these two parks because of their youth, but he now has support and momentum that could allow him to make a mark on some of the older parks.

Native American groups are banding together to sue Trump over the decision. They take this reduction as a direct attack against their history, cultural heritage and land that they consider sacred.

Removal of this land from protection opens the door to the privatization of all land, national and state parks alike. The Kinnickinnic and Willow River state parks are two that are very near River Falls. Students and community members take advantage of them for recreation, and many courses from UWRF utilize the undisturbed ecosystems within the parks to conduct field trips for classes.

In response to these proclamations, the companies Patagonia and REI recently put up ads on their websites informing visitors about Trump’s decision and the destructive consequences that can follow. Those who agree with them should take insight from this action. UWRF students do not have a company website through which to spread the word, but we do have social media. Those who feel strongly about the issue should tell others they know, and they should find outlets to let their local and state representatives know how they feel on the matter.

The issue may seem national at the moment, but for the people of Utah, it’s a state issue. It could very well become a state issue for the rest of us if we allow the decision to slip by without opposition.

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