Utah Officials Applaud Interior Recommendation To Shrink Bears Ears National Monument
Earlier this week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended shrinking the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah following a preliminary review ordered by the Trump administration.
“I spent a lot of time on the ground in Utah, talking with people and understanding the natural and cultural significance of the area,” Zinke said in a June 12 statement. “There is no doubt that it is drop-dead gorgeous country and that it merits some degree of protection, but designating a monument that – including state land- encompasses almost 1.5 million-acres where multiple-use management is hindered or prohibited is not the best use of the land and is not in accordance with the intention of the Antiquities Act.”
“I’ve submitted my 45-day interim report to President Trump expressing my belief that the monument needs to be right-sized and that it is absolutely critical that an appropriate part be co-managed by the Tribal nations,” Zinke continued.
An executive order signed by President Trump on April 26 directed Zinke to review large-scale national monument designations made since 1996 and determine whether they followed adequate public and stakeholder outreach. As part of Zinke’s 45-day review of the monuments, the secretary toured Bear Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante last month.
Utah officials applauded Zinke’s recommendation to scale back the Bears Ears monument.
“It is refreshing to have an Administration that desires to collaborate with local officials, tribal leaders and citizens to generate optimum methods to manage our lands,” Utah State House Speaker Greg Hughes (R) said in a statement.
“This is an unquestionable victory for Utah,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said in a statement. “This recommendation reflects a balance of our shared priorities of protecting this land and the antiquities that are found on it while still preserving local involvement, and taking into consideration the needs of the local communities.
“This is positive news for the State of Utah and local communities affected by the Bears Ears monument designation,” House Natural Resources Committee Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said in a statement. “Anyone with honest intentions recognizes that local input should matter when the federal executive makes a decision of this magnitude.”
“I commend Secretary Zinke for actually listening to local voices on the issue and conducting a thoughtful and deliberative review to help inform the President’s ultimate decision,” Bishop continued.
“The Secretary put a lot of effort into this report and personally spent time listening and learning from those whose daily activities, livelihoods and traditions are hindered and directly jeopardized by this new monument in Utah,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said in a statement. “The Obama administration turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to these communities and blatantly trampled the spirit and letter of the Antiquities Act by designating more than 553 million acres as national monuments over the course of eight years with the stroke of a pen.”
“A far cry from ‘the smallest area compatible’ required by the Antiquities Act, I have seen less gluttony at a hot dog eating contest,” Gosar continued. “I encourage the Trump Administration to fully rescind this gross overreach by the Obama administration, go back to the drawing board on Bears Ears and work with Congress as well as local stakeholders to find a viable and carefully crafted solution.”
In early January, San Juan County, Utah’s largest chapter of the Navajo Nation, Aneth, formally voted to encourage then President-Elect Donald Trump to reverse the Bears Ears National Monument designation as “undemocratic and unjust” and to request that no additional National Monuments “be established in the State of Utah.”
Aneth member Chester Johnson said trouble with Bears Ears emerged as early as 2005. “At that time when they switched to national monument they didn’t share it back with the community what their intent was,” said Johnson. “Aneth is the only one chapter that had the backbone to stand up and say ‘look central government, you don’t do that. You share it with us what the intent is for our region, the land that we use for centuries.'”
Utah’s Sutherland Institute, which opposes the National Monument designation, has compiled local opposition in southeastern Utah, including the Blue Mountain Dine’ Community. “The BMDC feels strongly that a cooperative, local approach through the Public Lands Initiative would create a National Conservation Area, which would better balance the interests of all local stakeholders and the need to preserve the area for all future generations for all people,” BMDC wrote in June 2016.
“[W]e disagree that the creation of an Inter-Tribal National Monument will be in the best interests and welfare of not only local Navajo people, but of all locals who love the land of their heritage,” wrote BMDC.