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Utah House urges Trump to undo Bears Ears National Monument

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House sent a strongly worded message to the Trump administration Tuesday to undo the new Bears Ears National Monument.

Supermajority Republicans passed a resolution, HCR11, urging President Donald Trump to rescind the southeastern Utah monument that his Democratic predecessor designated just weeks before leaving office. The vote was 60-14, with one Republican joining the Democrats in opposition.

House Speaker Greg Hughes said Utah has turned into an "ATM for exiting Democratic administrations" to use for political paybacks to special interest groups. The Draper Republican is sponsoring the resolution.

“We are of one voice, shoulder to shoulder with no light in between, the voices of the elected officials of this state, of which we are one, expressing our opposition to this designation by executive order,” he said.

The House also approved HCR12, a resolution urging the Trump administration to reduce the size of the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Kane and Garfield counties created in 1996. The vote was 61-13, along party lines.

House Republicans put the resolutions on a fast track, bypassing standing committee hearings and sending them straight to the floor over the objections of Democrats. GOP leaders say Utah's congressional delegation — all Republicans — asked the Legislature to act quickly to get the issue before Trump.

The measures typify the ongoing argument Utah's Republican-controlled Legislature has with what it considers federal overreach.

House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said the will of Utahns is much different from that of GOP leaders. A majority of residents favor the new monument and keeping the Grand Staircase as it is, he said.

"This is not representative of the views of the state of Utah," King said.

Several boos rained down from the House gallery after the Bears Ears vote, while about two dozen monument backers chanted slogans outside the chamber.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab listens as members of the Utah House debate a resolution calling on president Donald Trump to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument. Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab listens as members of the Utah House debate a resolution calling on president Donald Trump to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument. Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

One of the protesters, Moroni Benally, co-founder of the Utah League of Native American Voters, said the monument protects sacred places.

"My hope is that in Utah the idea of a sacred grove resonates, and essentially there are sacred groves in the Bears Ears area for Native American people," he said.

House Minority Assistant Whip Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said it's hypocritical of lawmakers to symbolically attack tribal sovereignty to get back at the federal government.

President Barack Obama declared the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears monument Dec. 28 over the outcry of the state's top elected officials and opposition from San Juan County leaders.

The designation came after more than a year of intense lobbying by supporters and opponents who pressed their case in Washington, D.C., stumping for the media in multiple news conferences and tossing out competing public opinion polls with varying results. Native Americans from several tribes are divided on the issue.

Hughes said the edict from thousands of miles away told people in San Juan County that they are incapable of being responsible stewards of the land.

"We don’t have to lean on or accept decrees from afar," he said. "We can be good stewards of this land."


The Legislature told the Obama administration last May in a resolution that the state didn't want a new national monument and would gear up to fight the creation of one.

“We have a strong legal argument to overturn this, but there’s no reason to go there if this wise resolution is adopted by our federal counterparts at this time,” said Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem.

The resolutions now go to the Senate, where Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, intends to send them to a committee for a public hearing.

Contributing: Ryan Morgan


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