At the end of his presidency, Obama invoked the 1906 Antiquities Act to grant Federal protection to 2,000 miles of Utah desert surrounding the twin geological formations referred to as “Bears Ears.” This area is rich in native burial grounds and cultural sites, and the creation of Bears Ears National Monument was cause for great celebration among five sovereign Native nations, including the Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, and Ute. Conservationists and nature enthusiasts, too, welcomed the move. But Republicans, who were eying the region for natural gas extraction, weren’t so thrilled. Now those lawmakers are fighting to reverse the new designation by filing a lawsuit and urging President Trump to remove those protections. Should they succeed, the unique and amazing beauty of this region is just the beginning of what stands at grave risk. Because opening this area up to natural gas drilling and fracking won’t just mar the landscape, enable the destruction of cultural artifacts, and spark man-made earthquakes – it can also cause mass pollution, and with that, myriad health risks.

Natural gas companies waste billions of gallons of freshwater to carry out the fracking process and heavily pollute that water with undisclosed “fracking fluids,” which are forcibly injected into the deep shale regions of the earth’s bedrock to push pockets of natural gas towards the extraction site. This water becomes so polluted with heavy metals and minerals (in addition to the many suspected human carcinogens from fracking fluid) that it can never be recovered.

Fracking operations are also responsible for the release of airborne toxins such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxide that cause more smog than has ever been recorded in Los Angeles, the nation’s smog capital. According to a study published in Environmental Health, air samples taken from areas near fracking wells showed inordinately high levels of benzene, hydrogen sulphide, and formaldehyde. These airborne pollutants are associated with dizziness, eye irritation, headaches, respiratory tract irritation, birth defects, blood disorders, asthma, and cancer.

In addition to the long-term health concerns imposed on humans, this process can also greatly affect the local ecosystem and the health of area wildlife. The chemicals used have even been linked to sex changes in wild species.

Moreover, permitting such a reversal on Bears Ears National Monument opens our other national treasures to becoming similarly exploited and destroyed for industry profits, as President Trump recently signed an Executive Order to review all large national monuments created since 1996. We the people must speak up to stop the current administration from ruining our public lands for good.

Do your part by signing this petition on Care2 and urging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to defend Bears Ears National Monument.

Image source: Nagel Photography/Shutterstock