Chaffetz looks to repeal declaration of Bears Ears as national monument

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said President Obama’s recent declaration of 1.35 million acres in southern Utah as a national monument dashed years of negotiations and bipartisan compromise.

The president evoked provisions of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to declare public lands surrounding San Juan County known as “Bears Ears” as a national monument. The area is of cultural importance to Native American tribes, but a debate has ensued over whether the state should have more control over federally managed public land.

The president’s decision does not have the support of the governor, a single member of the state’s congressional delegation, or any local elected officials or state legislators who represent the area, the congressman said.

“President Obama’s unilateral decision to invoke the Antiquities Act in Utah politicizes a long-simmering conflict,” Chaffetz said. “This unfortunate act threatens to further inflame controversies that were near resolution. The midnight monument is a slap in the face to the people of Utah, attempting to silence the voices of those who will bear the heavy burden it imposes.”

Chaffetz said he looks forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump to follow through on his commitment to repeal midnight regulations.

Years of negotiations with a diverse coalition had forged a comprehensive bipartisan solution that would have taken a balanced approach to protecting Bears Ears, Chaffetz said.

“Instead, the president’s midnight monument cherry picked provisions of the Public Lands Initiative (PLI) and disregarded the economic development and multi-use provisions necessary for a balanced compromise,” Chaffetz continued. “In reality, a win-win solution never really had a chance as the very threat of the Antiquities Act prevented a serious negotiation with the stakeholders of PLI — many of whom never wanted a compromise to begin with.”

Chaffetz also called into question the president’s promise of co-management of the lands between tribes and the federal government.

“The president’s promise of co-management between the tribes and the federal government cannot be gained through executive action. Only Congress can authorize such agreements — and the administration made little effort to help facilitate legislation that would have done so,” he added.