The deserts of Southern Utah are certainly sacred. There is no landscape like the endless red cliffs and rock formations that carry great spiritual significance for Native Americans—and are sacred playgrounds for outdoors people. Today, President Obama, using the Antiquities Act, declared 1.35 million acres near San Juan County’s Cedar Mesa a national monument, now known as Bears Ears National Monument.
Obama made the move partly based on the encouragement of five Native American tribes including the Hopi Nation, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray and Zuni Tribe. The designation, as most monument designations go, was highly debated within the state.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch ripped Obama in a statement Wednesday calling the decree an “attack on an entire way of life” adding that it was an “astonishing and egregious abuse of executive power.”
“In the next Congress under President Trump, I will do everything in my power to reverse this travesty,” Hatch said.
Hatch had his opportunity to protect the land himself but failed to do so. This from the Salt Lake Tribune:
The new monument’s footprint hews closely to national conservation areas proposed for San Juan County in Rep. Rob Bishop’s Utah Public Lands Initiative, the seven-county “grand bargain” designed to protect Utah lands and circumvent a monument. 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.
So Obama, satisfying at least two-thirds of a proposal by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition that asked for 1.9 million acres, made an important move, as oil and gas companies have begun to encroach surrounding areas, on the hunt for new developments.
“Today’s actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes,” Obama said in a statement.
If you’re a lover of wild places, it was a good day.