Monumental shrinkage
Trump expected to visit Utah on Monday to announce downsizing of Bears Ears, Escalante

Monumental shrinkage
Missy Votel - 11/30/2017

Trump talks monumental shrinkage

Get your #trumphasshrinkage signs ready. The commander in cheese is planning to visit Utah on Mon., Dec. 5. During his trip to the Beehive State, President Trump is expected to officially announce plans to radically shrink two southern Utah national monuments: the newly designated Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante. Barack Obama established the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears late last year before leaving office. Bill Clinton designated the 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante in 1996. Both made their proclamations under the auspices of the 1906 Antiquities Act. Trump does not intend to visit the monuments themselves, but will instead fly into Salt Lake City to make the declaration. He will not be spending the night or visiting Sugar House or the Tabernacle.

The announcement comes as no big surprise. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended scaling back both monuments, along with several others, in August. While administration officials have not announced how much Trump plans to reduce the monuments, he is expected to hack more than 1 million acres from the Bears Ears and between 700,000 - 1.2 million acres off Grand Staircase.

Despite a comprehensive planning process that included several Native American tribes who consider the area sacred, Utah’s Republican leaders have opposed Bears Ears. San Juan County, Utah, officials complain that with more than half of the county’s land being federally owned and another quarter made up of the Navajo reservation, their ability to raise money through property taxes is greatly hindered. “We’re challenged with providing services for 5 million acres, whether we get revenue from those 5 million acres or not,” San Juan County Commission Chairman Bruce Adams told the Washington Post in an interview Tuesday.

Environmental groups, however, decried the move, vowing to challenge it in court.

Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala called it the “largest elimination of protections for lands and wildlife in U.S. history.”

“Not only is President Trump’s order likely illegal, it ignores comments from more than 2.8 million Americans who asked the administration to leave these national monuments alone. The landscapes within Bears Ears ... have long been ravaged by looting and vandalism. It appears President Trump wants to keep it that way.”

CHP+ families told to start looking

Colorado families on the Children's Health Plan Plus program were put on advance notice this week. On Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Health sent out letters to the state’s CHP+ members advising them to start researching private health insurance options in the event the federal government fails to ante up money for the program. Federal funding for the program ended Sept. 30, but several states, including Colorado, had funds to continue operating the program. It is estimated Colorado’s CHP+ funds will last until Jan. 31, 2018. "It is critically important for families to start planning

for potential changes in their health coverage," Gretchen Hammer, Colorado Medicaid Director, said. "We remain cautiously optimistic Congress will renew federal funding, but we want our families enrolled in CHP+ to be aware that changes may be coming and not be caught off guard."

The state health department is working with Connect for Health Colorado because the loss of CHP+ coverage would result in a special enrollment period through the state’s marketplace. Individuals covered by CHP+ may also qualify for financial assistance on the state exchange.

The Department is also collaborating with CHP+ health plans, stakeholders, counties and providers in writing letters to help members understand what is happening with the program and how it may impact them.

"It's frustrating that our CHP+ families are facing this uncertainty, especially during the holidays," Tom Massey, interim executive director of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, said. "We are hopeful the federal government will act quickly to renew funding."

The Department is posting updates and FAQ’s on its “Future of CHP+” web page (colorado.gov/pacific/hcpf/future-child-health-plan-plus-chp).

CHP+ is low-cost public health insurance for children and pregnant women who earn too much to qualify for Health First Colorado (Medicaid), but not enough to pay for private health insurance. CHP+ is paid for by a combination of state and federal funding. Currently, more than 75,000 kids and nearly 800 pregnant women are enrolled in CHP+ in Colorado. Households earning less than $5,330 a month for a family of four can qualify.

As of now, there are no changes to CHP+ benefits; members can continue to use them as usual.

– Missy Votel