Utah’s Native Tribes Want Jobs, Not a New Monument

Many local Navajos, Paiutes, and Utes fear a proposed 1.9 million acre national monument in San Juan County would hinder or restrict economic activities important to their livelihood, such as farming, ranching, mining, and gas drilling.

Writes Naomi Schaefer Riley in the Wall Street Journal (see also related Daily Caller story):

“The locals would not have a voice anymore,” worries Clayton Long, a Navajo Indian and teacher in San Juan County, Utah. He’s referring to a campaign aimed at creating a new national monument of 1.9 million acres nearly in his backyard. Proponents are lobbying President Obama to protect the area around Bears Ears, twin buttes where Native Americans have long performed cultural ceremonies and gathered herbs to cook traditional foods.

Mr. Long and many members of the local Navajo, Ute and Paiute tribes say that the designation would destroy their livelihood and their culture. Most of the land included in the plan is owned by the federal government and controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. But today farmers can grow crops and graze cattle in Bears Ears. There’s some mining and oil and gas drilling, too. Though backers of the monument say grazing could continue, residents of the area fear even that would, at best, turn into a bureaucratic nightmare.

On Wednesday, tribal representatives, along with all of Utah’s delegation to Congress, delivered a series of letters to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell outlining their opposition. As Sen. Mike Lee told the crowd assembled on Capitol Hill: “A wealthy man’s playground should never come at the expense of a working man’s home.”

In principle, the designation of a national monument would do more to protect the tribes’ sacred ground. There have been reports of vandalism, and Mr. Long says he has heard rumors about grave robbing. But the question is whether that additional protection is worth the restrictions on recreational and economic activities.