Thursday, May 19, 2016

Battle over Bears Ears intensifies in Utah

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

Debate over a 1.9-million-acre national monument in southeast Utah is escalating this week as state lawmakers prepare to take up a formal resolution opposing President Obama's use of the Antiquities Act in the Beehive State.

A poll released yesterday by Creation Justice Ministries, a Washington, D.C., faith-based environmental organization, found 71 percent of registered Utah voters support Obama designating a Bears Ears national monument to protect the area's tribal cliff dwellings, rock art, burial sites, pit houses and ancient roads.

But several Navajos joined state lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert (R) yesterday on the steps of the statehouse to denounce the monument proposal, which they argue lacks local support and would limit tribal access to firewood, medicinal plants and ceremonial sites.

The conservative, Salt Lake City-based Sutherland Institute yesterday also released a five-minute documentary featuring testimony from Utah Navajos who oppose a national monument.

Bears Ears is believed to be near the top of Obama's list of tracts to permanently protect under the Antiquities Act. At 1.9 million acres, it would be his largest land-based designation to date -- and his most controversial.

The proposal is strongly opposed by Utah's congressional delegation and Herbert, who hand-delivered a letter to Obama in February warning that a unilateral designation would "only exacerbate an already tense situation" surrounding public land management in Utah.

What is a State anyway? Apparently not much if it contains federal land.  Here we have a proposal that is opposed by Utah's congressional designation (2 U.S. Senators and 4 members of the House of Representatives), the Utah state legislature and the sitting Governor.  And yet, one man, 2082 miles away, can totally ignore them and change the land use on 1.9 million acres within the state.  Such is the state of federal land policy today.

So we are witness to Utah leaders shakin' like a hound dog shitting a logging chain and expecting a hook any minute.  No wonder they are taking the lead on reform of this abomination.

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