Utah AG Threatens To Sue Obama Over Newly Designated National Monument

Congressman Rob Bishop R-Utah, chairman emeritus of the Western Caucus opposes the Bears Ears Monument, suggesting presidents have the power to undo monuments, though it has not been done before. (Our Climate Desk partners at High Country News have a good overview of the Bear Ears battle.) In other words, the fight is far from over, and it will certainly carry over into the next Congress and the Trump administration.

Obama also designated a Golden Butte National Monument on 300,000 acres of land outside of Las Vegas.

President Obama designated two new national monuments on Wednesday aimed at protecting sacred Native American sites in the desert regions of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada. Bears Ears is the first national monument to elevate tribal partners through a formal commission that will provide input on the monument's management plan. "Legally we can still auction lands off inside the Bear Ears Monument and really have a duty to do everything that we can to make money off of them". Prior to the Bears Ears designation Donaldson and the SILTA trustees asked department of interior officials to consider a land exchange or monetary compensation. Obama said it was important to protect the spaces, which are not only natural wonders, but lands that are both sacred and historically significant to Native Americans because of rock art and archaeological sites. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, a Republican, said the move was an unprecedented shot across his state's bow, noting state economic vulnerabilities weren't resonating 3,700 miles away in the nation's capitol.

Both parks still require congressional approval, as well as confirmation by the President-Elect.

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Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, blasted Obama's unilateral action, however, saying in a statement that it "politicizes a long-simmering conflict".

Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement Wednesday that he's working with local officials to file a lawsuit.

Chaffetz, however, called the designation a "slap in the face to the people of Utah," ignoring the progress made on settling land use disputes through the initiative.

Supporters of the Bundy family - including Jon Ritzheimer, who's awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to charges related to the OR wildlife preserve occupation - are possibly considering some type of protest action after the president's designation.

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Obama also recently declared large stretches of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans off-limits for future drilling, invoking other executive powers analysts said will be hard to reverse.

Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said a sitting president can not undo a previous president's national monument designations. Obama used the Antiquities Act to protect the monument. In the case of Bears Ears, the federal government will "co-manage" the land not with the state of Utah, but rather with five tribes: the Hopi, the Navajo Nation, the Uintah-Ouray Utes, the Ute Mountain Ute, and the Pueblo of Zuni. "We also have worked to ensure that tribes and local communities can continue to access and benefit from these lands for generations to come", he said in a statement following the proclamations.

Salt Lake City Rep. Joel Briscoe: "This monument speaks to our core knowledge that this attractive land was given to us to care for, learn from, and grow". Typically, the designation means that no new mining can take place in the area. In the works for several years, the PLI was introduced into the U.S. House in July, but Congress adjourned this month without taking action on it. Plenty of people would prefer that land to themselves or their states. "Now it will be preserved for all future generations", he said.

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