Bears Ears National Monument designated by President Obama in Utah
by Larry D. Curtis
(KUTV) President Obama designated two national monuments in desert landscapes, including the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah Wednesday.
He also established the Bears Ears Commission to help inform the management of the monument. The other monument is in southern Nevada, called the Gold Butte National Monument. The two monuments will cover more than 1.66 million acres in the two states, according to the White House.
Utah seemed divided on the issue when earlier in December, groups gathered in Utah to protest and support the creation of a monument.
Obama said in a statement that the designations were done “to protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archaeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes.”
“We also have worked to ensure that tribes and local communities can continue to access and benefit from these lands for generations to come,” Obama said.
Five tribes claim the Bears Ears area as their ancestral home including the Navajo, Ute and Zuni.
The Bears Ears Coalition called for 1.9 million acres to be protected in Utah. According to the Department of Interior, the Utah land encompasses 1.35 million acres with 300,000 in the new Nevada monument. It also said both areas contain land scared to Native American tribes, important cultural sites and fragile wildlife habitat. The monument designations maintain currently authorized use of land that do not harm resources protected by the monument according to the release.
News of the Bears Ears National Monument brought a bevy of responses, including harsh criticism from some Utah elected officials.
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-3rd District, said he was outraged by the decision in what he called an “unwanted midnight monument in Utah.” He also said it was a slap in the face to the people of Utah.
Rep. Orrin Hatch, said the designation was an “astonishing and egregious abuse of executive power.” Hatch said it showed that far-left special interest groups matter more than those who live on the land. He said for Utahns, particularly those in San Juan County, it was an affront of epic proportions and “an attack on an entire way of life.”
Utah Rep. Mia Love, R-4th district, was also harsh in her criticism. She said in part:
Again behaving more like a dictator instead of a representative of people, he ignored Utah, which is united in opposition to this action.
She called on state officials to “undo what he has done and restore the blessings of freedom he wants so badly to remove from us in his final days.”
San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman said the county was mourning the designation and that Obama gave into pressure from extreme environmental groups. He called on Congress and President-elect Trump to rescind the monument designation.
Read more at KUTV.com