Revealed: the full extent of Trump’s ‘meat cleaver’ assault on US wilderness
For thousands of years, Native nations of the US south-west lived in the majestic canyons of Bears Ears.
But it was land that conservative politicians and corporate interests also sought to control.
So in late 2016, the Hopi celebrated when the Obama administration protected Bears Ears by declaring it a national monument, sheltering it from development and extraction.
Just one year later, after Donald Trump took office, he drastically reduced the size of the monument by 85%.
The administration justified the rollback by pointing to some local residents who opposed the monument. In truth it was also responding to a push by groups with deep ties to major GOP donors and the extractive industries.
As the industry grew, the breaking point for Rogers was when a drilling pad was installed across the street from the home of a church family. Noxious fumes, nonstop industrial noise and dead birds followed, as Rogers tells it.
The family reported headaches, nosebleeds and respiratory problems. Earlier this year, a pipe broke in the middle of the night and spewed a fluid drilling byproduct over the family’s home and livestock.
The town is located in the middle of vast oil and gas fields, much of which are public lands.
The Trump administration has opened up significant swaths of land around Carlsbad for oil and gas drilling.
Scientists at the University of Wyoming discovered the Red Desert was the starting point of a wondrous large-mammal migration.
Each year, hundreds of mule deer – a struggling species unique to the west – travel a 300-mile round trip from the Red Desert to forests south of Jackson Hole and back to feast on fresh greenery and bulk up in anticipation of winter.
“It is the longest migration so far recorded for the species,” says Dr Matt Kauffman, a scientist with the US Geological Survey and the leader of the Wyoming Migration Initiative that maps migration corridors across Wyoming and the west. Each animal learns the route from its herd and follows the path “for the rest of its life”, he said.
But around and within the corridor, land being leased for oil and gas drilling is on the rise. This magnificent migration depends on the region’s relatively undisturbed landscape, which includes private land as well as vast tracts of public land.