Utah’s Washington County Commission unanimously passed a resolution opposing the creation of Bears Ears National Monument (BENM) in San Juan County, Utah.
The action came two weeks after commissioners in San Juan County passed a resolution on October 4 requesting President Barack Obama not put the BENM within the county’s borders. At 1.9 million acres, BENM would take up 37 percent San Juan County’s land.
According to a report commissioned by the San Juan County Commissioners, establishing BENM would be inadvisable and violate various procedural requirements of federal and state law. Based on the report, the county commission unanimously adopted a resolution rejecting the proposal.
The report and resolution say the area proposed for the BENM lands by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, consisting of the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Pueblo of Zuni tribe, the Ute Indian Tribe, and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe does not meet the requirements for use as public lands.
The resolution states a national monument designation for Bears Ears would preempt “18 established Federal, State and local land use planning efforts” and take “151,000 acres of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands, vast areas of private inholdings, including 43 grazing allotments, no less than 661 appropriated water right diversion points, the sole operating uranium mill in the United States, multiple oil and gas production areas, and approximately 18,000 acres of patented property.”
Locals, State Oppose Monument
A recent poll from Utah Policy shows 60 percent of Utahans polled do not support BENM.
Gov. Gary Herbert (R) announced he opposed the monument, and the entire Utah congressional delegation sent a letter to Obama in February 2016 opposing any effort to create BENM.
“The people of San Juan County have overwhelmingly voiced their opposition to the proposed monument,” said Matthew Anderson, a policy analyst for the Sutherland Institute. “Environmental groups have coopted the process to use federal power as a means of securing the Bears Ears region as a national monument despite local opposition.”
The report commissioned by San Juan County states it ranks last in per-capita income in the state, with income averaging approximately $23,244 per person. Additionally, 29 percent of the county’s residents are below the Federal poverty line.
Anderson says BENM would make a bad economic situation even worse.
“A monument designation would have a devastating impact on the people of San Juan County,” Anderson said. “It will decrease funding for education, restrict Native Americans from engaging in their traditional cultural and religious practices, economically depress the region, and keep locals from accessing resources vital to their daily lives.”
Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Stillwater Technical Solutions, “The Advisability of Designating the Bears Ears as a Monument Under the Antiquities Act,” San Juan Utah County Commission, October 2016: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/the-advisability-of-designating-the-bears-ears-as-a-monument-under-the-antiquities-act