GOP Gov. Gary Herbert floated a possible compromise on the controversial Bears Ears National Monument on Monday: A litter of little Cubby Ears.
In an impromptu press conference in the Capitol Rotunda – where hundreds of folks were meeting over a Utah tourism display – Herbert said perhaps instead of the large, 1.4 million acre Bears Ears there could be a “series of smaller monuments” in the San Juan County area.
Herbert is in a tough situation, as more and more participants in the large Outdoor Retailers Association summer convention held in the Salt Palace are boycotting the event to display their anger at Utah GOP officials opposing Bears Ears, and seeking to gain control of millions of acres of federal lands in the state.
Just last week another outdoor firm said it would not come to the summer convention – which brings in around $40 million to the local economy – if Utah doesn’t stop what some term as “a war” on federal public lands.
“The Trump situation is putting people on edge,” Herbert told the gaggle of TV and print media.
Herbert was not a supporter of Trump before he won Utah (albeit with a diminished plurality) and won the presidency.
And it is certainly fair to say that Donald Trump’s first month in office has been unsettling.
But Herbert signed two legislative resolutions – one calling for Trump to rescind the Obama-designated Bears Ears National Monument, the other asking Congress to reduce the size of the 20-year-old Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Those state actions once again brought a response from some involved with the Outdoor Retailers convention.
Herbert said there has been misunderstanding about what Utah really wants to do – and certainly has done – in protecting public lands, whether managed by the state or federal governments.
He again picked out Denver, Colorado, saying it really makes no sense for the Retailers to take their convention there when Salt Lake City and the nearby maintains, lakes and rivers are such a perfect match for the four-day convention.
“We need to take politics out” of the conservationists/environmentalists’ arguments against Utah, “and let emotions cool down.”
Herbert said he’s asked leaders of the Retailers association to meet with him, so he can clear up some of the “misunderstandings” and point out how much Utah – its citizens and elected officials – have done and are doing to preserve public lands.
“We want to look at all the options,” he said, after he suggested there could be a series of smaller national monuments – perhaps created at the same time Trump uses his power to rescind the larger 1.4 million acre Bears Ears.
Those smaller areas – more in tune with the original idea of the 1906 Antiquities Act – perhaps could be crafted to better protect ancient Indian artifacts and current day Native American activities on land they believe to be sacred.
A few GOP leaders – like Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe – have spoken kindly to the Retailers.
But it appears it is up to Herbert to bring the Retailers to the table and defuse the current anti-Utah sentiment.