ST. GEORGE – A recommendation to shrink the size of the Bears Ears National Monument made by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has drawn a mix of praise and disappointment.
The San Juan County Commission and leading Utah Republicans are pleased with the action, while some conservation groups and Native Americans are decrying it. The various groups issued their responses in the wake of Zinke’s announcement Monday.
The San Juan County Commission
We have immense gratitude for the Trump Administration and especially Secretary Ryan Zinke for their thoughtful approach to this land grab issue. We have always felt and believed that Secretary Zinke listened to all sides and worked to make a decision based on facts.
In San Juan County, we are fighting for our future. As a people, we have so much to offer. That future was detrimentally limited when this monument was created. Secretary Zinke has restored some hope, but the battle is not over. We need you to call President Trump and tell him you support Secretary Zinke’s recommendation. With Sec. Zinke extending the comment period until July 10th, it is vital that everyone submit comments.
This monument designation was not about protection and preservation, the people of San Juan County have done that as stewards of the land. This monument designation was about control. By shrinking the monument, President Trump and Secretary Zinke are empowering the local people with the ability to build a diverse economy and support their families.”- San Juan County Commissioners
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah
I commend the President and the Secretary for this long overdue examination of Antiquities Act abuses and I look forward to working with the Secretary as he works on the final report for this and other National Monuments. The proces leading to the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument didn’t have the support of the Governor, a single member of Utah’s Congressional delegation, nor any local elected official. With the stroke of a pen, President Obama crippled a multi-year effort to solve public lands issues in Utah by locking up a million acres and jeopardized negotiations over another 10 million. In doing so, President Obama further undermined the local population’s trust in the federal government.
When determining the future of public lands – particularly in regions dominated by federal ownership – there is a need to balance conservation, recreation and economic development. Secretary Zinke’s recommendation takes major steps to reach this conclusion and to correct the actions of the previous administration. This is a win-win scenario for the region.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
This is an unquestionable victory for Utah. While I am encouraged to see Secretary Zinke recommend diminishing the size of the monument in line with the original intent of the Antiquities Act, as envisioned by President Teddy Roosevelt and the Congress of the early 1900s, I am even more grateful for the thoughtful and inclusive process that led us to this point.
Secretary Zinke heard from everyone, community leaders, conservationists, tribal leaders, from those who clearly opposed any monument to those who attempted to shout him down while he was visiting our state. 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.
I hope these efforts will serve as a positive blueprint for Secretary Zinke’s future monument reviews, and I thank both he and President Trump for giving Utahns a voice in this process.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah
I commend Secretary Zinke for producing a balanced and factual report that should be seen by both sides as genuine progress towards a consensus solution to land use issues in San Juan County. The report confirms that President Obama abused the Antiquities Act by not limiting his monument designation to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of cultural artifacts and areas of importance. I look forward to working with all stakeholders to come up with a legislative solution that addresses the concerns raised by Secretary Zinke.
From the Utah Dine Bikeyah, a Native American-led nonprofit organization working with Native American tribes and others who support the Bears Ears National Monument:
We are deeply upset at Secretary Zinke’s announcement today. The Secretary failed to take the time to listen to the very people who know best what is at stake at Bears Ears and ignored overwhelming support in Utah for the monument. If the Administration proceeds in attempting to shrink the monument, we could lose funding potential, proactive management, and law enforcement resources for the land that would no longer be included in the monument. Within those lands sit some of the state’s richest biodiversity, hundreds of thousands of important Native American artifacts, and sites sacred to Native Americans and beloved by so many more Utahns.
The Secretary’s recommendation isn’t about doing what’s best for Utah. It’s not about the nuances of the Antiquities Act or differing views on land management. It’s about appeasing political allies and special interests; it’s an illegal move to turn back the clock one hundred years on tribal relations and Utah’s economy.
President Trump should ignore this hasty report and should visit with the people who live here in San Juan County. He should review recent polling that suggests the vast majority of Utahns, including voters on both sides of the aisle, support the monument. If the President does act on Secretary Zinke’s suggestions, we are prepared to defend protection in court. However, Native American Tribes, Western governors, and anyone who cares about public lands should be on notice now—Native American citizens in Utah demand to have a seat at the table and be treated like everyone else when it comes to strengthening our communities, building an economy, and sustaining our cultural traditions. A threat on Native American participation in our democracy, is a threat to all Americans.
Mathew Gross, Media Director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
Though Secretary Zinke’s interim report does not change anything about Bears Ears on the ground today, it makes it clear the Secretary is trying to line up the political cover to eviscerate the monument. That doesn’t change the fact that any attempt by the Trump administration to weaken or shrink the monument is illegal. The landscapes and cultural resources protected in Bears Ears belong to the American people and must be protected for the sake of future generations, not pawned off as a trophy for the Utah delegation.
League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski
It’s outrageous that Secretary Zinke is recommending that President Trump eliminate protections for one of America’s most majestic public lands. A president is supposed to safeguard our parks and natural and cultural heritage, not sell them out to the oil and gas industry. More than 1 million public comments have been submitted in favor of preserving national monuments like Bears Ears, which honors local indigenous communities by protecting their ancestral lands and sacred cultural sites for generations to come.
This treasure is also a breathtaking landscape for hikers, mountain climbers and others that fuel America’s outdoor recreation economy. It and other national parks and monuments remain highly at risk by Secretary Zinke’s unprecedented review that could result in illegal executive action by President Trump or rollbacks by Congress to abolish or diminish a national monument.
That is why LCV is announcing a bold new campaign on Wednesday to further engage the public and pressure lawmakers to support our national parks and monuments and defend the Antiquities Act from these attacks on our nation’s public lands.
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