As UtahPolicy.com first reported, President Barack Obama officially declared the Bears Ears National Monument on Wednesday afternoon.
The Bears Ears Monument covers 1.35 million federal acres. That’s far less than the 1.9 million acres that groups of Native Americans and environmentalists asked for. It’s also less than the 1.4 million acres proposed for protection under Rep. Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative, unveiled earlier this year.
President Obama also designated the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, which covers some 350,000 desert acres. With the two designations, Obama has now used the Antiquities Act 29 times during his presidency. In a statement, Obama said ““Today’s actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes.”
Rep. Rob Bishop has argued that any national monument designation can be rolled back by the incoming Donald Trump administration. However, that theory has never been tested before. The Obama administration has argued there is no legal mechanism to undo monument designations.
Utah’s congressional delegation, along with Gov. Gary Herbert and many Republican members of the Utah legislature have repeatedly railed against the proposed monument, arguing the president should not be able to lock up large swaths of land with a pen.
Bears Ears could be a focal point during the next Congress in January as Sen. Orrin Hatch said Rep. Ryan Zinke’s hopes of becoming Secretary of Interior in the Trump administration could hinge on his views about the monument. From Roll Call:
“As every Utahn knows, land-use decisions should be made only through a collaborative process — a process like the Public Lands Initiative — that involves those who actually live on the land and know how to manage it. There are real benefits to a thoughtfully crafted legislative approach, and I remain committed to working with my colleagues to pursue a legislative solution when Congress reconvenes next month,” Hatch said.