Utah Congressional delegation urges President Obama not to create new monument in San Juan County

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SALT LAKE CITY — Members of Utah’s Congressional Delegation signed a letter sent to President Barack Obama this week that expresses their opposition to the designation of a new national monument in San Juan County.

The land mentioned in the letter covers about 1.9 million acres in southeastern Utah, and the letter dated February 12 asks the president support “the locally-driven, ongoing Public Lands Initiative process” rather than designating a monument through the use of the Antiquities Act.

Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee signed the letter along with all four of Utah’s Representatives: Rob Bishop of District 1, Chris Stewart of District 2, Jason Chaffetz of District 3 and Mia Love of District 4. All six lawmakers are Republicans.

The letter states in part: “Federal land-use policy has a major impact on the lives of those residing within and near federal lands. We believe the wisest land-use decisions are made with community involvement and local support. This principle is true whether skyscrapers or sagebrush surround a community. Use of the Antiquities Act within will be met with fierce local opposition and will further polarize federal land-use discussions for years, if not decades.”

The letter states local groups and the delegation have come up with a Public Lands Initiative to conserve 1.2 million acres in San Juan County, including areas like Cedar Mesa, Indian Creek and Bears Ears Buttes. The letter concludes by stating the federally elected officials “speak for the vast majority of our constituents” when they state they don’t support using the Antiquities Act in Utah. The letter requests the Administration withdraw any plans to do so.

The full text of the letter, courtesy a press release from Rep. Chaffetz, is available below:

Dear Mr. President:

As you may know, a coalition of environmental groups and non-profit organizations are lobbying the Department of the Interior, the Council on Environmental Quality, and White House staff to invoke Antiquities Act authority to designate a 1.9-million-acre national monument in San Juan County, Utah.  As members of the Utah federal delegation, we write to express our opposition to the Administration’s use of the Antiquities Act within San Juan County.

Federal land-use policy has a major impact on the lives of those residing within and near federal lands. We believe the wisest land-use decisions are made with community involvement and local support. This principle is true whether skyscrapers or sagebrush surround a community. Use of the Antiquities Act within will be met with fierce local opposition and will further polarize federal land-use discussions for years, if not decades.

Make no mistake, both the State of Utah and San Juan County value our public lands. With that said, public participation in land-use decisions is critical to their long-term acceptance and success; the most effective land management policy is inclusive and engaging, not veiled and unilateral. Knowing this, we have collaboratively developed a proposal that would conserve more than 1.2 million acres of federal land in San Juan County—including iconic locations, such as Cedar Mesa, Indian Creek, and the Bears Ears Buttes. We are prepared to work with the Administration to get this proposal signed into law.

As federal elected officials representing the State of Utah, we speak for the vast majority of our constituents. We do not support the use of the Antiquities Act within our community and ask that the Administration withdraw any plans to do so. Prior to any final action, we request that open and transparent conversations occur between the Administration and the state and local elected officials representing any area under consideration for a unilateral monument designation.