On Wednesday, Utah officials were surprised by President Barack Obama’s decision to declare the area of Bears Ears in Southeastern Utah a National Monument. He made this declaration by exercising the use of the Antiquities Act.
The Antiquities Act is a law that gives the United States President the authority to create national monuments from federal lands in order to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features.
The area that President Obama declared a national monument in Utah’s San Juan County spans over 1.35 million acres which is roughly the size of the state of Delaware.
Utah Congressmen Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop had proposed a Utah Public Lands Initiative that would conserve 1.39 million acres in mostly the same area that was just declared a national monument.
“…the decision is a major break with protocol previously followed by this administration. It does not have the support of the governor, a single member of the state’s congressional delegation, nor any local elected officials or state legislators who represent the area,” Congressman Chaffetz stated.
The general mood of this decision by other government officials in Utah is a somber and unhappy one. It is widely believed that this decision was a misuse of the Antiquities Act and that it should have been handled by President Obama in an entirely different manner.
“Of all the states involved in public lands, Utah is far ahead of anyone else in terms of their local planning efforts and their collaboration with all of the entities that do business on public lands. For the president to use the Antiquities Act at the last minute, ignoring all the collaboration work that’s been done in the state of Utah is truly regrettable,” stated Castle Country local Randy Johnson.
“Instead of having public lands management that’s the result of good planning, we have top-down management thrust upon us and it will create animosity and friction between the various groups for years to come. It is not a good way to do business and it is an improper use of the Antiquities Act, which was intended to protect small areas with very special resources, not huge tracts of land that already had protection,” Johnson continued.