Noel claims feds will announce action on Bears Ears Monument on Saturday

Without citing any sources, state Rep. Mike Noel announced on his Facebook page Tuesday afternoon that this coming Saturday, federal officials will announce action on the new Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah.

“I think it will be reduced, most likely,” Noel, R-Kanab, told UtahPolicy in an afternoon telephone interview.

“It could be rescinded, but that is less likely,” he added.

In any case, the lands will remain in federal control, said Noel, but “the people of our state will be able to provide their meaningful input into how these lands will be managed in the future.”

Noel said he has “no inside information – other than the announcement will be made out of D.C.”

But from comments made by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke when he visited the area last month, and comments he’s heard since Noel said he is confident “new ground will be made” in local control of federal lands in Saturday’s announcement.

To much fanfare, GOP President Donald Trump signed an executive order tasking Zinke and the Interior Department to study all national monuments created under the 1906 Antiquities Act over the last 20 years by presidents from both political parties.

But Bears Ears, created by Obama in December before he left office, is tops on the list for being changed in some manner.

The 1.3-million-acre monument was opposed by all GOP Utah top officeholders – even though there are now several national advertising campaigns aimed at keeping the monument whole.

Noel repeated to UtahPolicy his previously stated belief that the Native American artifacts inside of the large monument can be adequately protected, area by area, without the creation of the huge monument – one of the largest ever designated by a president.

Because of various “legal issue,” Noel said rescinding the designation is less likely.

“I believe we could downsize to the smallest area” and keep all the protections of artifacts in the original Obama declaration, said Noel.