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President Obama has just created the Bears Ears National Monument, Utah, granting federal protection under the Antiquities Act to the geological formations and 2,000 square miles of desert surrounding them.


But sadly, Congress is bent on repealing every shred of Obama’s legacy and to open up public lands to development and drilling. Hence there’s no way the area will remain sacrosanct. Local Republicans are willing to protect the area but only if damage can be done where they consider it’s necessary. To this end they intend to repeal not just the designation but the Antiquities Act itself. How could they be so crass? (Well, for example, this very morning House Republicans have gutted an independent ethics watchdog, putting it under their own control, in a secret ballot hours before the new Congress convened for the first time, so anything is possible.)

The rejection of “sacrosanct” in favour of “sometimes sacrosanct” is now familiar in Britain – see Historic England’s Advice Note apparently providing themselves with justification to support massive damage to the Stonehenge landscape: “a small minority of landscapes will be so sensitive that the degree of alteration or addition without loss of significance may be very limited, particularly where there is a consistently high level of archaeological interest or architectural consistency” BUT: Works other than those of a minor nature are likely to be acceptable only where they would be in the best long-term interests of the conservation of the remains or there are other important planning justifications.”

The question arises, if the Stonehenge Landscape isn’t sacrosanct, where is? And how come the change has been brought about by a quango acting on unpublished Government orders, and not subject to an ethics watchdog, independent or otherwise? What can one say? Well, simply that logic dictates that those who work for organisations which support the short tunnel and think of their organisations as superior to Trump’s Republicans are deluding themselves.


January 2017

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