Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Obama creates two national monuments; Utah congressman vows to undo one of them

Screenshot of Salt Lake Tribune interactive map; click on it for larger version
President Obama created two new national monuments Wednesday, comprising 1.65 million acres in Utah and Nevada. "White House officials said Obama had hoped that Congress would act to enshrine the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada and that he only acted after the House and Senate failed to do so," Bill Tomson reports for Agri-Pulse.

The new Bears Ears National Monument, named after two mountain peaks, covers 1.35 million acres and is the more controversial of the two, Tomson reports: "A commission made up of five representatives from Native American tribes will manage the national monument, and mining, fracking and oil drilling will be barred, said Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality."

The tribes are the Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute and Ute of the Uintah Ouray. Both monuments contain land that tribes consider sacred, important cultural sites, and fragile wildlife habitat.

The White House noted that Obama's proclamation was based on a bill introduced by Utah Republican Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz of Utah, "but Chaffetz was sharply critical of Obama's action" and vowed to reverse it, Tomson reports.

"After years of painstaking negotiations with a diverse coalition, Utah had a comprehensive bipartisan solution on the table that would have protected the Bears Ears and provided a balanced solution,” Chaffetz said in a statement. “We will work to repeal this top-down decision and replace it with one that garners local support and creates a balanced, win-win solution.”

Goldfuss said the deed is done: “The Antiquities Act gives the president the authority to create monuments, but does not provide explicit authority to undo them.”
Deseret News map; for its story on the monuments, click here.

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