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Trump’s Decision Could Threaten Ancient Petroglyphs
Trump’s Decision Could Threaten Ancient Petroglyphs

Trump’s Decision Could Threaten Ancient Petroglyphs

Trump’s Decision Could Threaten Ancient Petroglyphs

Conservation experts have expressed concern over the preservation of ancient artworks at Bears Ears National Monument in Utah after President Donald Trump announced measures to reduce the size of the monument by 85% on Monday.

Together with the rollback of the nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the reduction represents the largest decrease of federal land protection in US history and could threaten the area’s ancient Native American petroglyphs, Artnet.com reported.

President Barack Obama, who established the protection of the land a year ago, said the designation was introduced to safeguard “important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archaeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes.”

Bears Ears was the sole monument designated as the result of a petition by a coalition of four Native American tribes (Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and Ute).

Native American tribes and experts such as David S. Whitley, a specialist in prehistoric archaeology and ethnography of far western North America at the environmental protection non-profit ASM Affiliates, are concerned that the government’s decision could put at risk ancient petroglyphs - some dating back 2,000 years. They also warn that opening up the area to mining and oil development could destroy the surrounding environment.

“Bears Ears has a world-class corpus of Native American rock paintings and engravings. Some of these are thousands of years old; others more recent; all, by their very nature, are extremely fragile,” Whitley told Artnet News in an email. “Roads, well pads, and open pit mines will obliterate the sites; pollution generated by these activities will quickly degrade the remainder. America has very sadly traded our heritage for short-term corporate profit.”

In April, Trump ordered Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review the boundaries of 27 national monuments. Zinke’s report, which was published in August, recommended the alteration of several existing sites.

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