Utah Delegation in DC in All-Out Push Against Bears Ears Monument

US Geological Survey mark where the four corner states in the American west converge.
US Geological Survey marker where the four corner states in the American west converge.

On Wednesday, September 21, Governor Gary Herbert (Republican) will join Utah’s congressional delegation to offer several resolutions opposing another National Monument in the Beehive State.

In Washington D.C., the governor and Utah delegation will hold  the press conference as part of a last-ditch effort to deflect the very real possibility of President Obama designating the Bears Ears National Monument in the “four corners” area through the use of the 1906 Antiquities Act.

Local residents will also be included in the media event to bolster message continuity originating from the Republicans. Their message? That local residents do not support the designation. In reality, the residents, both native and non-native, are divided on the issue.

Those involved in Wednesday’s event seek to counter the original Diné Bikéyah monument proposal. Diné Bikéyah, a coalition of 12 Native American tribal governments, has wanted President Obama to protect sacred and historical dwellings in the Four Corners area of Utah through the use of presidential powers. Diné Bikéyah has also actively opposed a scaled-down monument with a lands bill brought by House Natural Resources Committee chair and Utah Congressman, Rob Bishop (Republican – Ogden, Logan) known as the Public Lands Initiative (PLI). Critics of the PLI charge that fossil fuel industrial interests have contributed heavily to both Herbert and Bishop to advance the PLI and secure official opposition to any action by President Obama.

Over the past six months, many tribal leaders have petitioned the President when they believed that Bishop and his colleague, Congressman Jason Chaffetz, were not genuinely listening to their concerns. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured the region with her senior staff in mid-July and has likely delivered extensive recommendations to the White House since that time. The President has the authority to act anytime during his remaining days in office and many expect that he will.

A list of the resolutions and petitions to be delivered Wednesday by Herbert and Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee includes the work of many local officials from San Juan County, one of Utah’s most impoverished areas. The county is nearly equally divided between native Navajo (Diné) and descendants of Mormon pioneer families. A list to be discussed at the Wednesday press conference includes:

  • Resolutions from the Blue Mountain Diné and the Aneth Chapter of the Navajo Nation in opposition to the new National Monument as proposed by the Diné Bikéyah 12-tribe council.
  • A petition from the descendants of Kaayelii Tribe in opposition to the Monument.
  • Resolutions from the cities of Blanding, Monticello (the San Juan County seat), Utah, and the San Juan County Board of Commissioners and Utah State Legislature, all opposing the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.
  • A letter from the Utah Wildlife Board’s opposition to the designation.

Additionally, Utah Senator Mike Lee has previously introduced the “Utah National Monument Parity Act” which seeks to amend the Antiquities Act of 1906 to halt further use of the executive branch’s conservation law in Utah without congressional approval.

Live streaming coverage at 2 PM MDT for the press conference is not confirmed.

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