Senator to Fight Obama’s Utah Land Grab
On December 28, 2016, Barack Obama issued the following:
“Proclamation — Establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Rising from the center of the southeastern Utah landscape and visible from every direction are twin buttes so distinctive that in each of the native languages of the region their name is the same: Hoon’Naqvut, Shash Jáa, Kwiyagatu Nukavachi, Ansh An Lashokdiwe, or “Bears Ears.” For hundreds of generations, native peoples lived in the surrounding deep sandstone canyons, desert mesas, and meadow mountaintops, which constitute one of the densest and most significant cultural landscapes in the United States. Abundant rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, ceremonial sites, and countless other artifacts provide an extraordinary archaeological and cultural record that is important to us all, but most notably the land is profoundly sacred to many Native American tribes, including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Hopi Nation, and Zuni Tribe.”
Obama used a 110-year-old law, the Antiquities Act, to make his proclamation of the Bear’s Ear National Monument. His proclamation encompassed 1.3 million acres of land.
However, not everyone is thrilled with Obama’s land grab move. Back In September 2016, Michelle Cottle wrote in The Atlantic:
“Chock full of Native American burial sites, much of Bears Ears is important—sacred even—to local tribes. For decades, folks have been feuding over how the region should be managed and by whom. Last year, representatives from five tribes petitioned Obama to intervene using the Antiquities Act, a (Teddy) Roosevelt-era law giving presidents the power to declare public lands as national monuments. Environmental groups, 20 additional tribes, and a big chunk of preservation-minded Utahans support the proposal.”
“But land management is a flammable issue in Utah. We’re talking Al-Sharpton-going-to-see-Hamilton-with-David-Duke level flammable. This is hardly surprising when you consider that 65 percent of the state’s land is owned by the federal government. So while much of the nation has cheered Obama’s second-term flurry of monument making (he’s named 23 sites thus far, more than any other U.S. president), Utahans are more skeptical.”
“Many residents, in fact, get downright ornery about the possibility of a president—especially a Democratic president—unilaterally placing monument restrictions on huge swaths of their state. Part of it is a dislike of Washington D.C. generally and of presidential authority in particular. ‘Utah loves government process,’ explained Ted Wilson, a long-time environmental activist and former mayor of Salt Lake City. They like to see issues hashed out in the state legislature and in Congress, he said. ‘So the idea that a president can just put pen to paper is anathema.’”
“More particularly, there remains much ill will in Utah over President Clinton’s designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996. It was, pretty much all of Utah agreed, handled badly. The president didn’t bother giving a heads up to state leaders, and then went to Arizona to deliver the announcement, Wilson recalled. ‘Even the Democrats were mad about that one,’ he said. ‘I was co-chair of Clinton’s campaign that year, and I was so upset about it, I threatened to resign.’”
Regardless of the sentiments expressed by a large number of Utah residents, Obama followed the example of Bill Clinton and ignore the will of the people to grab more land for the federal government.
At least one person is not going down without a fight in hopes of undoing Obama’s and grab and return the land back to the state of Utah. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) commented about Obama’s actions going against the will of the people, saying:
“This is an unusual and extraordinary use of the Antiquities Act, a law passed 110 years ago by Congress that gives the power to the president of the United States to designate a national monument.”
“And yet he did it anyway.”
Lee plans on working with Congress and the Trump administration in hopes to negating the designation of the Bear’s Ear National Monument. He can either appeal to President-elect Trump to undo Obama’s proclamation with a wave of his pen or he can introduce legislation to undo the designation and return the land to Utah.