Through the Antiquities Act, President Barack Obama declared Bears Ears a National Monument on Wednesday. The monument in southeast Utah is made up of about 1.35 million acres. In the immediate aftermath, politicians, department heads and citizens unleashed a torrent of statements. We have compiled a sizable sampling of comments:
Utah Senate Democrats:
“Today, after years of discussion and input from state officials and tribal leaders, President Barack Obama has declared a national monument protecting the Bears Ears region of Southern Utah. We applaud the President’s action today and are grateful that these incredible vistas and irreplaceable cultural and historic sites will be protected for generations to come.
“We offer our gratitude to the tribal leaders who have never given up their fight for the preservation of their cultural heritage and sacred lands.”
Kathryn Lenton, in the imagined voice of Bears Ears:
Thank You, President Obama, for saving me! I have been SO worried and scared. I know that you have a lot on your mind—like what is going to happen to our whole country; but I can't tell you how much I, and those who have fought for my preservation, appreciate your concern and subsequent action that sacred places remain unmutilated.
My Ears have been a home, a sacred burial ground, and a landmark to the special indigenous tribes who have protected me for hundreds of years before so many people with so much money,toys and ill intent decided that I was only so much Real Estate to be used and abused.
The Antiquities Act has saved me when our own self interested Utah legislators couldn't pass their own Public Lands Initiative. HOORAY!!
Even though my advocates have had to compromise, I believe that my best interests have been ultimately protected by achieving a consensus brought on by transparency and due process.
THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT
I has been an honor to have you as our leader and protector.
I am happy for myself, but I remain worried and scared about the future of our beautiful Land.
Utah Senate Majority Leadership:
“Today, we stand with the people of San Juan County and condemn President Obama’s ‘midnight monument’ designation in southern Utah. Despite the recent election that was a clear referendum on his misuse of power, this president continues to arrogantly abuse the executive authority. With a stroke of his pen in Washington D.C., President Obama ignored the voices of the people of San Juan County and every elected official chosen to represent the Bears Ears area.
“We will support every effort to reverse this devastating unilateral action and implement policies to locally protect the sacred Bears Ears area without hurting the hard-working citizens of rural Utah.”
Gov. Gary Herbert:
I am more than disappointed by President Obama’s decision today to designate a Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. I am deeply disturbed by what has resulted from a troubling process. By unilaterally locking up 1.35 million acres—an area roughly the size of the entire State of Delaware—the president has misused his authority under the Antiquities Act and violated assurances made by his Interior Secretary to take into account local concerns before making a monument designation.
This decision ignores the will of the majority of Utahns. It disregards the desire of Native American groups who count these lands as their heritage to co-manage this culturally important area. It overlooks the unanimous opposition of Utah’s statewide elected officials and Utah’s entire congressional delegation. It runs roughshod over a resolution from Utah’s legislature opposing such action. Today’s designation demonstrates how overreach from the federal government often disregards the well-being and interests of rural Americans.
This action will have long-term impacts on Utah and our public lands. Proper stewardship of public lands in the West requires an appreciation and understanding of our varied and unique terrain. Utahns know from sad experience how such unilateral and politically motivated monument designations can create division, distrust and conflict. Collaborative legislation, although more time-intensive, is the only durable solution to these complex issues.
As outraged as many people are with today’s decision, we know how to challenge this action appropriately through the many administrative, legal and legislative avenues available to us. We will aggressively pursue these options.
All who have looked at this issue know that the Bears Ears area deserves greater protection than what the current Bureau of Land Management has chosen to provide. I am concerned that the wrong process has produced a result that could backfire because it is not in the best interest of the Native Americans and the local population who have reasonable expectations of responsible access and use. I promise to work tirelessly with the incoming administration, Utah’s congressional delegation, our attorney general, the Utah legislature, and San Juan County officials to find the appropriate resolution to this important and complex issue.
President Obama has shown little regard for the input of every elected official in Utah who represents this area. I am hopeful that this unfortunate decision made in the final weeks of an outgoing president will be dramatically improved in the first weeks of our incoming president.
Utah House Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands:
“Like the unilateral tyranny exercised by the King of England against the American colonies two and a half centuries ago, our President has exercised an unconstitutional unilateral exercise of the Executive power to establish a monument greater in size than a number of the original thirteen states. Our children are the biggest losers and our Federal Executive Branch is well aware that this designation goes against the voice of the American Citizens living within the borders of the State of Utah and an overwhelming super majority of those elected to represent them. This Bears Ears designation will not survive a constitutional review by our Judicial Branch and we pledge to take and support every lawful action available under the rule of law to overturn this act of repulsive political cronyism.”
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell:
“The rock art, ancient dwellings, and ceremonial sites concealed within these breathtaking landscapes help tell the story of people who have stewarded these lands for hundreds of generations. Today’s action builds on an extraordinary effort from tribes, local communities, and members of Congress to ensure that these treasures are protected for generations to come, so that tribes may continue to use and care for these lands, and all may have an opportunity to enjoy their beauty and learn from their rich cultural history.”
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack:
“Utahns of all creeds are rightfully proud of the spectacular Bears Ears landscape, treasuring the opportunity to recreate, hunt, ranch and engage in their traditional cultural and spiritual practices. Rather than closing off opportunities to continue those uses, today’s announcement is a recognition that those activities can continue, and the natural and cultural resources the communities prize are worthy of permanent protection to be shared with all Americans. As we move forward with planning for monument implementation, the deep knowledge of the tribal community as well as ranchers, recreationists, archeologists and local community citizens will be heard.”
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye:
“President Obama has been consistent in his commitment to work with Tribal governments, and this historic designation builds on his legacy. We are particularly pleased that the designation affirms tribal sovereignty and provides a collaborative role for Tribes to work with the federal government in maintaining the land. Because Tribes will help manage this land, it reaffirms President Obama’s fundamental commitment to human rights and equity in voice. Furthermore, while the land will be protected, our local Utah-based tribal members will continue to have access to the land for gathering ceremonial herbs. The land has always been a place of sacredness and fortitude for our people. Now it will be preserved for all future generations.
“We appreciate the great effort and everyone involved, including the Utah Congressional delegation who worked very hard on a parallel proposal. It is heartening to know our friends from the Utah delegation care deeply about conserving this irreplaceable land. We look forward to working with them and all our elected representatives in Congress on our constituents' shared priorities.”
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell:
“The Bears Ears National Monument is an incredible resource for the people of Utah. The Forest Service is honored to work with the local communities and tribes to manage these lands for the public's enjoyment and preserving them for future generations.”
Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario:
In protecting Bears Ears, the president recognizes the leadership and historic vision of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition representing five tribes, and the strong grassroots support from climbers and conservation groups. We are witnessing the power of community activism, and we thank President Obama for listening and taking action.”
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes:
“We are truly disappointed that President Obama today chose to use the Antiquities Act to unilaterally declare a 1.35-million-acre Monument in Utah. The Antiquities Act, created by Teddy Roosevelt, was never intended to be used in this way and only the smallest area necessary for the purpose of protecting significant archaeological or historical sites is allowed. Not only is that clearly not the case here, but this administration has had no real conversations with those who will be affected by this designation, let alone any study of what “antiquities” they are attempting to protect.
“Adding to a long list of executive actions that threaten the sovereignty of the states and the citizens of this nation to chart their own course, our president has chosen to once again subvert the will of the people. Earlier this month, nearly all elected officials who represent the area, from local to federal, assembled at the Utah State Capitol to plead with President Obama to resist the temptation to grant these types of political favors. This action betrays the interests of Utahns, stands in the way of better stewardship of the land we all love and cherish and ultimately amounts to a blatant federal land grab.
“Our democratic republic is designed to be most effective and accountable when major decisions are made closest to the people but President Obama has chosen to circumvent all democratic processes and lock up nearly one and a half million acres of land from use based solely on ideological principles.
“Nearly 70 percent of Utah is under federal management and control and 90 percent of our population lives on just 1 percent of our ground. Nothing about this is even remotely reasonable, and that is why we in the Utah Legislature have been pushing back for decades. This designation makes that effort even more important and we will do everything within our power to seek to overturn this action once President Obama leaves office next month.”
State Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City:
“Thank you President Obama for protecting Bears Ears for untold future generations. Thank you Native Americans. This is your land and your victory!
“Before the deafening outcry from Utah GOP spin, remember, Rob Bishop had every opportunity to make a great deal for Utah with the Administration with the PLI (public land initiative) sadly he chose the ugly political path. Obama was ready to deal, but the hostile GOP chose defiance in response to President Obama's outstretched hand. Don't like Bears Ears blame Utah's GOP leadership. Like Bears Ears? Thank tone deaf Rep Rob Bishop.”
State Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City:“This monument speaks to our core knowledge that this beautiful land was given to us to care for, learn from, and grow. Proposals to protect these sacred lands have been on the drawing board for 80 years. For decades, presidents, governors, state and local leaders have studied the best ways to protect these special places. We cannot ignore the deeply spiritual aspects of this land, its meaning to those who use it and love it, and its immeasurable worth to people now, and in the future. A monument like this is so much greater than all of us, than any political squabble. Creating the Bears Ears National Monument is the right thing to do, for Utah, for our country, and for our future.”