Why Pray for the Stewardship of Public Lands now?
November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to meditate on the rich wisdom, spiritualities, and cultures of Indigenous peoples. Yet, Native American heritage is in peril. Sacred sites, petroglyphs, ancient cliff dwellings, plants and wildlife important to traditional lifestyles, and delicate watersheds need our protection.
The Trump Administration is actively considering rolling back protections for Native American heritage and God’s creation. US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has made a proposal for the biggest rollback of public land protections in U.S. history.
Call to Prayer
Join in prayer that God will inspire our communities to uphold and honor the spiritual, cultural, and natural heritage of Indigenous peoples. Please sign up your faith community to pray for good stewardship of public lands. We particularly lift up stewardship of public lands with U.S. national monument protections, which are under imminent threat. You can lift up a prayer during the “Prayers of the Faithful” / “Prayers of the People,” incorporate the prayer into a sermon, or pray during Sunday school. Then, let us know you prayed, so we can show the strength of our collective prayers.
On April 26, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order for the Department of Interior to “review” 27 national monuments established after 1996 to determine whether they should be eliminated or shrunk. They included: Bears Ears, Gold Butte, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine, Katahdin Woods and Waters, Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails, Basin and Range, Berryessa Snow Mountain, San, Gabriel Mountains, Oregon Mountains- Desert Peaks, Rio Grande Del Norte, Mariana, Trench Marine, Rose Atoll Marine, Pacific Remote Islands Marine Papahanaumokuakea Marine, Upper Missouri River Breaks, Sonoran Desert, Carrizo Plain, Vermilion Cliffs, Craters of The Moon, Ironwood Forest, Cascade- Siskiyou, Hanford Reach, Canyons of The Ancients, Giant Sequoia, Grand Canyon-Parashant, and Grand Staircase- Escalante.
All of these National Monuments conserve antiquities important to Indigenous peoples. On August 24, 2017 Secretary Zinke delivered a set of recommendations to President Trump. He has recommended diminishing size or conservation protections for: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon, Gold Butte in Nevada, Organ Mountains Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments in New Mexico, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the coast of New England, the Pacific Remote Islands near Hawaii, and Rose Atoll near American Samoa. Zinke's recommendations have been evaluated by the Congressional Research Service. The New York Times created a useful list that clearly lays out what is at stake in Zinke's recommendations.
One of the monuments of particular concern is the 1.3 million acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Religious communities worked extensively to support tribal efforts to establish the monument. Bears Ears is considered the ancestral land of five tribes, and each of those tribes hold parts of the monument as sacred. On December 28, 2016, because of the advocacy of the Hopi, Ute Indian, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni, and Navajo, President Obama established Bears Ears National Monument as the first National Monument that primarily focuses on the spiritual, cultural, and natural heritage of tribes. In his Presidential Proclamation, President Obama appointed a Bears Ears Commission of Tribes to be the primary advisory body for the management of the Bears Ears National Monument. Secretary Zinke has ignored the Bears Ears Commission of Tribes' calls to uphold all conservation protections for Bears Ears. The elimination of protections for this land is not only disrespectful to the tribes, but also poses a threat to the future of the land. Without protections given to Bears Ears through its national monument status, the land is in danger of damage by extractive industries, grazing, and reckless visitors.
Now is the time to pray that God guides our nation's decision-makers. May they see the importance of the national monument protections for Indigenous heritage.
About this Blog
This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.