Tonight, a dramatic clock counting down from eight days will flash onto a building in downtown Denver.

In eight days, more than 2 million acres that was formerly within Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments (before President Trump shrank it) will open up to possible mineral and geothermal leasing.

Conservation Lands Foundation, The Wilderness Society and Patagonia don't want us to lose track of time.

They are behind a large projected countdown clock which will light up the McNichols Civic Center Building tonight at at 7 p.m. during the Night Zero gathering at Outdoor Retailer and Snow Show. The clock is counting down from 9 a.m. EST Feb. 2, when private mineral companies gain access to the land.

The countdown clock, which will be large and hard to miss, is intended raise awareness of what the three environmental organizations call “imminent harm” to public lands.

In President Donald Trump’s proclamations on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, provisions allow private mineral companies to begin staking mining and drilling claims within 60 days of Dec. 4, 2017. 

“Tonight’s action is to raise awareness not only of Trump Administration’s attacks on Utah’s national monuments, but also on the public lands across the country that belong to all of us,” according to a Patagonia news release. “Coloradans must continue to speak up for the protection of special places.”

To those in the oil and gas industry, however, the date is only a technicality in the process, which does not necessarily trigger lease sales.

“Nothing is happening anytime soon,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of Denver-based oil and gas trade association, Western Energy Alliance.

She said the oil and gas industry has not expressed great interest in drilling in Grand Staircase-Escalante, and any leases nearby Bears Ears have been on the periphery, not inside the boundaries.

But conservationists believe the industry’s perspective is disingenuous. They say never before  has a president used a bedrock conservation law to roll back public land protections and also allow direct access by energy companies.

The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comment on its resource management plans at both locations, which Sgamma said triggers a multi-year land-use planning process.

Information about commenting on Bears Ears can be found here.

Information about commenting on Grand Staircase-Escalante can be found here

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