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Sacred land protection efforts face questions with Donald Trump

Filed Under: Environment | National | Politics
More on: barack obama, bears ears, blackfeet, davis filfred, doi, doj, donald trump, energy, harry barnes, jeff sessions, navajo, republicans, sacred sites, utah
     
   

Blackfeet Nation leaders attend the screening of Our Last Refuge: The Badger-Two Medicine Story at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C, on November 17, 2016. From left: Chairman Harry Barnes, Chief Earl Old Person and historic preservation officer John Murray. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Republican president-elect Donald Trump is headed to the White House and his leadership will impact sacred site protections across the nation.

In one high-profile case, the Blackfeet Nation worked for decades to convince the Department of the Interior to cancel a single drilling lease in the sacred Badger-Two Medicine Area. But an attorney for the company that holds the lease thinks Trump could turn the situation around.

“All it would take,” William Perry Pendley, the president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, told The New York Times, “is for the Justice Department to enter the case and say, ‘We’ve re-evaluated. We will lift the suspension and we’ll permit the drilling to go forward.’”

Trump has vowed to lift "restrictions" on energy development within his first 100 days in office so a change in course is certainly possible. And plans to nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Texas), who supports domestic energy development, to lead the Department of Justice.

The tribe does not oppose energy development -- just not in its sacred areas, Chairman Harry Barnes said at an event in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. He vowed to keep fighting to protect those lands, no matter who is in charge at the White House.

"The Blackfeet have worked with a whole lot of different administrations since 1855," Barnes said at a screening of the Our Last Refuge: The Badger-Two Medicine Story at the National Museum of the American Indian. "We are pretty damn sure we can work with this one."

In a second high-profile situation, tribes in the Southwest are seeking to protect 1.9 million acres of sacred land and historic sites at Bears Ears in Utah. Unless President Barack Obama takes action to declare the land as a national monument, they are worried that the area will continue to suffer.

“They’re taking bones, they’re taking pottery,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred told The Times. “They’re desecrating and damaging the writing on the walls. They’re tearing up the ground with their ATVs and motorcycles. It’s heartbreaking to me when I see that. That’s why I want it protected.”

Republicans in Utah oppose the designation of a national monument and they are pushing for legislation that would allow Bears Ears to be used for recreational and other purposes.

Read More on the Story:
Battle Lines Over Trump’s Lands Policy Stretch Across 640 Million Acres (The New York Times 11/19)

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