A New National Monument In Utah could Ignite Fierce Land Battle

BuzzFeed takes an in-depth look at the push for Pres. Obama to create a new “Bears Ears” national monument in southern Utah. Critics say such a proclamation would subvert the democratic process and undermine local interests.

Reports Jim Dalrymple II:

But some locals and Utah lawmakers adamantly oppose turning Bears Ears into a national monument at all, and want the federal government completely out of the state.

 

After the Bears Ears Coalition finished it’s proposal last fall, it took it to Utah Representatives Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz — Republicans who have been vocal critics of federal land use.

 

Neither Bishop nor Chaffetz responded to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment, but both Descheenie and Lopez-Whiteskunk said reaching out to the lawmakers did not end well.

 

“There was no substantive engaged,” Descheenie said. “They nodded along, they smiled and they were cordial, and at the end of the day that was about it. It was kind of like talking to a wall that just wouldn’t respond.”

 

That may be because the lawmakers have created their own proposal for Utah’s public lands.

 

The Utah Public Lands initiative would set aside some lands for conservation, and is billed as being based on the “belief that conservation and economic development can coexist and make Utah a better place to live, work, and visit.” Still, it has been blasted byconservationists and the Bears Ears Coalition, which called it “woefully inadequate.”

 

The public lands initiative is not limited to Bears Ears, but Chaffetz, Bishop, and all of Utah’s U.S. representatives and senators sent a letter to Obama in January specifically opposing a national monument. The letter warned of “fierce local opposition” should the president move forward with a “veiled and unilateral” proclamation and argued that decisions should be made “with community involvement and local support.”

 

“We believe the wisest land-use decisions are made with community involvement and local support,” it added.