In January, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, called the recently designated Bears Ears National Monument in his state a “travesty.” Hatch vowed to work with President Donald Trump to reverse the December 2016 designation, a stance that many other Utah Republicans have taken in recent months. Utahns like Hatch say the effort is meant to give states control over their own natural resources. Conservationists call it an attack on some of the nation’s most beloved landscapes. The attempt to abolish Bears Ears and other national monuments is part of a fresh tack in the larger push by conservative lawmakers to purge federal management from public land in the West.
...“I think it’s harder for Republican state legislatures (to push land transfer) when you have the Trump administration, their friends, who are in charge of these federal land agencies,” says Steve Bloch, legal director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “They’re not the enemy the way the Democrats were. (Interior Secretary) Ryan Zinke is a Montana Republican; Utah politicians don’t see him as very different from them.” Though the GOP official platform last year still included language to promote a massive transfer of federal land to state control, Trump has indicated he does not support such a move. Zinke explicitly opposes a transfer.
...Kayje Booker of Montana Wilderness Association says she’s seeing another shift in tactic away from wholesale land transfer, with the same goal of undermining federal control: transferring management but not title. “Some of the folks that had been pushing for (title) transfer are now pushing for management transfer as a foot in the door strategy,” Booker told HCN. Last year Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, proposed a bill to do something similar: making counties primary managers of certain federal lands.