Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Political leaders and other Utahns had strong reactions to President Barack Obama's Wednesday decision to designate a national monument in the Bears Ears area in southeastern Utah.
Here are a few of them:
Gov. Gary Herbert:
“I am more than disappointed by President Obama’s decision today to designate a Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. I am deeply disturbed by what has resulted from a troubling process. By unilaterally locking up 1.35 million acres — an area roughly the size of the entire state of Delaware — the president has misused his authority under the Antiquities Act and violated assurances made by his Interior Secretary to take into account local concerns before making a monument designation.
"President Obama has shown little regard for the input of every elected official in Utah who represents this area. I am hopeful that this unfortunate decision made in the final weeks of an outgoing president will be dramatically improved in the first weeks of our incoming president.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
"The president’s proposal, like so many others, goes well beyond the original authorities of the Antiquities Act, which was intended to give presidents only limited power to designate special landmarks, such as a unique natural arch or the site of old cliff dwellings, in anticipation of broad support from Congress. The president was never meant to set aside millions of acres against the express wishes of local communities and their elected representatives. To illustrate just how extensively the Antiquities Act has been abused, the president’s newest proposal includes more land than the total acreage of the first 25 presidentially proclaimed national monuments combined — including the Grand Canyon."
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah:
“This arrogant act by a lame duck president will not stand. I will work tirelessly with Congress and the incoming Trump administration to honor the will of the people of Utah and undo this designation.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah:
“President Obama’s unilateral decision to invoke the Antiquities Act in Utah politicizes a long-simmering conflict. This unfortunate act threatens to further inflame controversies that were near resolution. The midnight monument is a slap in the face to the people of Utah, attempting to silence the voices of those who will bear the heavy burden it imposes. Furthermore, the decision is a major break with protocol previously followed by this administration. It does not have the support of the governor, a single member of the state’s congressional delegation, nor any local elected officials or state legislators who represent the area."
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah:
"The creation of the Bears Ears National Monument marks the second time in the recent past that a president has used the Antiquities Act to lock up millions of acres of land in Utah without daring to set foot in the state. I am disgusted by the process and will fight this monument with every tool at my disposal, including through the appropriations process."
Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah:
"By unilaterally designating the Bears Ears area of San Juan County a National Monument, President Obama has undermined the economy and lifestyle of the people who live there, the religious interests of the Native Americans who reside in San Juan County, and ignored local authority. Again behaving more like a dictator instead of a representative of people, he ignored Utah, which is united in opposition to this action. I join our delegation, state officials and the people of Utah in the pledge to use every tool in our arsenal to undo what he has done, and restore the blessings of freedom he wants so badly to remove from us in his final days."
Greg Hughes, speaker of Utah House:
“Adding to a long list of executive actions that threaten the sovereignty of the states and the citizens of this nation to chart their own course, our president has chosen to once again subvert the will of the people. Earlier this month, nearly all elected officials who represent the area, from local to federal, assembled at the Utah State Capitol to plead with President Obama to resist the temptation to grant these types of political favors. This action betrays the interests of Utahns, stands in the way of better stewardship of the land we all love and cherish and ultimately amounts to a blatant federal land grab.”
Phil Lyman, Bruce Adams and Rebecca Benally, San Juan County commissioners:
“Today San Juan County mourns after President Barack Obama gave into pressure from extreme environmental groups, out-of-state tribal leaders, and corporate interests by designating the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument."
Sean Reyes, Utah attorney general:
"The sacred tribal areas in and around Bears Ears should absolutely be protected but in a way that is legally sound and that makes sense. A national monument in San Juan County does not preserve the land but divests it from the very people for whom it is sacred. The local Navajo will no longer be able to gather medicine or firewood, graze cattle, hunt, maintain their livelihoods or access the mountain heights for their religious ceremonies."
Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City:
“This monument speaks to our core knowledge that this beautiful land was given to us to care for, learn from and grow. Proposals to protect these sacred lands have been on the drawing board for 80 years. For decades, presidents, governors, state and local leaders have studied the best ways to protect these special places. We cannot ignore the deeply spiritual aspects of this land, its meaning to those who use it and love it, and its immeasurable worth to people now, and in the future. A monument like this is so much greater than all of us, than any political squabble. Creating the Bears Ears National Monument is the right thing to do, for Utah, for our country, and for our future.”
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City:
“Thank you, President Obama, for protecting Bears Ears for untold future generations. Thank you, Native Americans. This is your land and your victory!”
Jennifer Rokala, Center for Western Priorities executive director:
“By protecting Bears Ears and Gold Butte, President Obama has secured his legacy as one of America’s great conservation presidents. These spectacular landscapes, with their archaeological sites threatened by looting and vandalism, are in dire need of protection.
"Plans to protect Bears Ears have been in the works for 80 years, dating back to the proposed Escalante National Monument in 1936. Utah’s congressional delegation, led by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, chose not to pass the long-promised Public Lands Initiative this session, leaving a national monument designation as the only remaining option for protecting Bears Ears."