Utahns do not want President Barack Obama to declare the Bears Ears area in San Juan County a national monument, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.
Only 19 percent of adults favor Obama making that designation before he leaves office in January, finds pollster Dan Jones & Associates.
That is about where public opinion was several months ago when Jones found only 17 percent support for Obama designating 1.9 million acres in the Bears Ears area, considered sacred land by several Native American groups.
Many, but not a majority, favor a smaller area being declared a “conservation” preserve under a U.S. House bill sponsored by Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, both R-Utah.
Jones finds 35 percent support for that alternative, found in a more expansive Bishop bill – his Public Lands Initiative (PLI).
But there is still a large segment of Utah society that wants nothing done with the Bears Ears lands – 29 percent statewide.
And 17 percent don’t know what should be done with the now-mostly-wild lands, finds Jones.
Some Utah GOP leaders believe Obama will act before the first of the year, and another unpopular (by local standards) national monument will be created by a sitting Democratic president.
Bill Clinton created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996 as he faced re-election.
The Bears Ears debate has become highly partisan, both in Utah and beyond.
- Only 2 percent of Utah Republicans support an Obama national monument.
- 44 percent of local Republicans favor Bishop’s bill.
- 36 percent of Republicans want nothing done with the land.
- And 18 percent are undecided.
Democrats are just the opposite:
- 57 percent favor Obama creating a national monument.
- 15 percent like the Bishop alternative.
- 11 percent say do nothing.
- And 16 percent don’t know.
Political independents are split:
- 22 percent like the Obama plan, 34 percent say create the smaller Bishop conservation area, 27 percent say do nothing, and 16 percent are undecided.
The more conservative you are politically, the more you don’t like the Obama plan and favor doing nothing.
Just 1 percent of the “very conservative” say Obama should act, 45 percent say do the Bishop protection, 41 percent say do nothing, and 13 percent don’t know.
Many local Native Americans consider Bears Ears sacred, spiritual.
But it is not an issue for the LDS Church, except that church leaders say Nature was created by God to serve the needs of Man, and as such Man has the responsibility to use the bounties of the Earth and animal wisely and with good stewardship.
Jones finds that among “very active” Utah Mormons, 7 percent like the Obama national monument, 44 percent want the Bishop bill, 33 percent say do nothing, and 16 percent don’t know.
Jones polled 858 adult Utahns from July 18 to Aug. 4. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.34 percent.