Genius Panelists: Bears Ears Monument Designation is Likely

blue 01This Week’s Question: Will Pres. Obama designate a new Bears Ears national monument before he leaves office, or will Congressman Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative bill pass Congress, or will some combination of the two occur? What do you believe should happen?

Peter Corroon, Utah Democratic Party chair, former SL County mayor, former gubernatorial candidate. If the Public Lands Initiative is modified to be a true public lands initiative, it may pass.  Otherwise, we will see a Bears Ears national monument.

Justin Harding, chief of staff, Office of the Governor; former top congressional staffer. The best case scenario, and the one that all stakeholders should continue to push for, is passage of Rep. Bishop and Rep. Chaffetz’ PLI.  This has been a multi-year collaborative effort comprising well over a thousand individual meetings with dozens of stakeholders.  The state has poured hundreds of man-hours into the PLI as well.  Enactment of the PLI is the surest vehicle to protect both the resource that is known as Bears Ears as well as to ensure all other values are defined and preserved via statute.  Even if the President were to use his executive pen, Congress would likely still need to act on provisions desired by stakeholders but not permissible for the President to act on using executive authority alone.  Congress fulfilling its legislative prerogatives, by enacting the PLI, is in the best interest of everyone.  Utilizing executive authority alone would also be a set back to state/federal relations, as it would serve as further evidence that Washington, DC thinks it knows what is best for the West.

Val Oveson, former state auditor, lieutenant governor, and National Taxpayer Advocate. I am very impressed with Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative. Described as a “Grand Bargain,” it would allow the various conflicting parties to negotiate for their legitimate interests and let go of their long held positions. The compromise would serve the greater good for all parties. Unfortunately, the time is running out and the “Grand Bargain” is looking unlikely.  I would predict that we will get an Obama designated Bears Ears national monument.

Richard E. Kendell, former school district superintendent, commissioner of higher education, and governor’s education advisor. I think the President will invoke the Antiquities Act concerning Bears Ears before he leaves office.  This will likely occur after the November elections.  There appears to be three options on the table: (1. Do nothing, which I think is unacceptable to all parties; (2. Pass the proposed legislation to provide protections along with other provisions.  However, getting the Bishop bill through Congress is a stretch at best.  It is even more unlikely that such a bill would be signed by the President.  The Utah delegation does not have the political heft to get this done. Moreover, our current political establishment has added another vice to the Seven Deadly Sins –Compromise.  It is right up there with lust, gluttony, and avarice.  (3. Since option 1 is unacceptable and option 2 seems to be highly unlikely, option 3 will likely prevail.  Moveover, if Clinton wins the presidency, which seems more likely every time Trump makes a policy speech, the Utah delegation will be one of the weakest on Capitol Hill. 

On a lighter note, hats off to Secretary Sally Jewel.  Regardless of her party affiliation she is bright, well informed, and gracious in the way she handles issues, people, and conflict.  If she recommends invoking the Antiquities Act she will be vilified in Utah, but she is a class act regardless.

Boyd Matheson, president, Sutherland Institute; former chief of staff to Sen. Mike Lee. Sadly, most signs point to the Obama Administration using the Antiquities Act to unilaterally designate nearly 2 million acres as the Bears Ears National Monument.  This action flies in the face of the democratic process, ignores the desires of our elected officials and casts aside local input. Congressman Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI) however, is grounded in compromise and common sense.

Often overpowered by well-funded, out-of-state environmentalists and big corporate interests are the voices of the people who actually live in San Juan County.   A wealthy man’s monument should never come at the expense of a working man’s dream.

Senator Lee and Representative Bishop have provided the opportunity for the people to be heard as local citizens, young and old, have given voice to their hopes and dreams for the future.  From carrying on a family legacy in ranching to exploring new possibilities in technology and business; from providing quality education for their children to accessing traditional herbs and berries; from preserving a place for spiritual rites to passing on a sacred heritage – all are intertwined with the land they live on and the resources it provides.    

There are many ways to be careful stewards of the land. Our public lands can and ought to be used for multiple and often complimentary uses. Rather than a monumental mess by executive order, the compromise of PLI can ensure responsible land management for years to come.  Utahns across the political spectrum should support this approach.