Saturday, December 31, 2016

Tribes get say in land management but worry about Trump

Native Americans who have long bemoaned their lack of participation in federal land decisions scored a major victory when President Barack Obama designated a new national monument in Utah that gives five tribes an opportunity to weigh in on the management of their ancestral home. But federal bureaucrats working under President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet appointees will still have the final say on all land decisions, and some tribal officials are concerned that the shared-management arrangement could quickly sour if the incoming administration charts a different course for the 1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument. Navajo Nation lawmaker Davis Filfred, who hopes to be on the tribal commission helping to oversee the monument, said he and others are worried, but they are trying to stay hopeful that the administration will give the commission a legitimate voice. "Now is not the time to bash him," Filfred said, "because I need him." Federal officials will also create a different advisory committee made up of local government officials, business owners and private landowners to provide recommendations. That board will probably lean heavy with people who opposed the designation over concerns about adding another layer of federal control and closing the area to new energy development, a common refrain in the battle over use of the American West's vast open spaces. The language designating the monument creates a tribal commission composed of one elected official from each of five tribes. That arrangement falls short of the full co-management system the tribes requested, but they still considered the setup a significant improvement. "It's double, not a home run from the tribes' perspective," said Kevin Washburn, a University of New Mexico law professor and the Obama administration's former assistant secretary for Indian affairs. "But it gives the tribes an important seat at the table."...more

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