On Monday, the U.S. Senate voted down a proposal to block presidents from unilaterally declaring new national monuments in Utah.
Sen. Mike Lee attempted to attach the amendment to a public lands bill, but the Senate turned the effort away on a 60-33 vote.
Wyoming and Alaska currently enjoy protections from the creation of national monuments by presidential fiat. In Wyoming, a monument can only be created if Congress approves the move. Alaska has a restriction on the creation of large monuments.
“At a bare minimum, Utah deserves the same protection that Wyoming has received,” Lee said before the vote. “Let me be clear: My opposition is not about whether our national treasures, our parks, monuments, lands should be protected. It is not about whether they should be but how to do that and who is best equipped to do that and who is most knowledgeable to do it well.”
He went on to say that he’s “asking for Utah’s elected leaders, its elected lawmakers in Congress, to weigh in on these matters before they become law rather than to have those decisions being made from thousands of miles away by just one person.”
Presidents Clinton and Obama designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments during their administrations. In 2017, President Donald Trump shrunk both of the monuments significantly.