Friday, July 15, 2016

As Interior secretary tours sacred tribal site, Utah Republicans push to protect it

Utah Republican lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday that would protect 1.4 million acres of a sacred Native American site in the state’s southeast, as Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured the area to solicit ideas on how to address the threats it faces. Bears Ears — an expanse of land in San Juan County that boasts both archeological treasures and critical environmental habitats — has come under pressure from looters and vandalism over the years. Utah’s congressional delegation has spent three years working to craft a compromise bill that would encompass not only that area but six other counties, providing opportunities for energy development, grazing and motorized recreation while designating some parts for conservation. The new flurry of activity, including the bill introduction and Jewell’s four-day visit to meet with tribal leaders, local officials and environmentalists, underscores that time is running out to forge a legislative deal. President Obama is weighing whether to designate Bears Ears as a national monument under the 1906 Antiquities Act at the request of the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Pueblo of Zuni, who argue that state lawmakers have not given them sufficient input into their lands plan. While many of these nations no longer live in Utah, they date their connections to the land back more than 3,000 years, when ancestral Pueblo communities lived there...more

 Look at the leverage the Antiquities Act gives the environmental community.

You would think that under a Republican congress the legislative debate would concern redrawing the boundaries and revising the management language of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument proclamation, but thanks to the Antiquities Act - and the threat it contains - Republican lawmakers are rushing to create more Wilderness and other restrictive designations.

On previous occasions where the Republicans have controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House, they have failed to amend the Antiquities Act.  Will they make that mistake again?

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