Thursday, August 11, 2016

Chris Stewart - decision already made on Bears Ears, Interior just "going through the motions"

Congressman Chris Stewart is singing the same tune as his Washington colleagues and most of his constituency when it comes to the proposed designation of another national monument in Utah. To show the federal government’s commitment to getting participation from the state, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, visited southeastern Utah last month to hold a three-hour meeting focused on gathering feedback. Still, the effort falls short in Stewart’s eyes as he believes, like other Utah lawmakers, the president has already made up his mind and is just “going through the motions.” During a recent interview exclusively with St. George News, Stewart discussed the proposed designation and his concerns. While Utahns are largely in opposition to the monument, he said he does not believe their opinion will matter. “I think they’ve made the decision already,” Stewart said, “and they’re just going through the motions of coming out here to Utah and listening to folks.” Utah Policy reported last May on a poll that found only 17 percent of Utahns want Obama to declare the Bears Ears area in Southeastern Utah a national monument. The poll, conducted by Utah-based public opinion pollster Dan Jones and Associates, was in stark contrast to one taken by an environmental activist group showing an overwhelming number of Utahns want to see Bears Ears protected under national monument status. Several environmental groups also maintain the designation of the monument is largely supported by Native American groups of the Bears Ears area and within the state. Stewart, however, argues that is not true. “… There’s some interest but there are also many who oppose it,” Stewart said. “Many of the tribal interests who support the Bears Ears (monument) live outside of the state.” Stewart said if the president is sincere he will listen to local input and not create the monument. Stewart recently added a Monument Prohibition Amendment to the House Interior Appropriations Bill aimed to block the creation of new national monuments in Utah and other areas. The amendment, passed during a U.S. House Interior Appropriations Committee Mark Up and later the full House of Representatives, was written in anticipation of Obama’s actions to designate the monument, Stewart said. He added that while he is a strong supporter of preserving the country’s national treasures, he believes in local input...more

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