Utah House to President Trump: take eraser to national monuments

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two resolutions asking President Donald Trump to undo national monument designations sailed through the Utah House of Representatives along party lines, though not without heated opposition from Democrats.

HCR 11 asks Trump to get rid of the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County, while HCR 12 asks Trump to reduce the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the minimal acreage required to protect antiquities within its boundaries.

"All we're asking you folks is let us live our life in peace," said Rep. Mike Noel (R, Kanab), sponsor of the Grand Staircase-Escalante Resolution.

Noel said the economy of the area did benefit from more tourism, but tourism jobs have not been enough to keep the area's youth from moving away.

"There's a reason why we lost almost two-thirds of our kids in Escalante high school," Noel said.

But Democratic Leader Brian King said the monuments created a more stable and sustainable economy.

"I think the people in Garfield and Kane County recognize that their greatest growth potentially in the future is the kind of things that the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is going to bring to people," King said.

President Bill Clinton created the 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase Escalante Monument in 1996, using the power granted the President in the Antiquities Act.

The Bears Ears Monument was created on December 28, 2016 by President Barack Obama. It encompasses 1.35 million acres of land in San Juan County.

House Speaker Greg Hughes (R, Draper) sponsored the resolution, saying Democratic presidents were using public lands in Utah to pander to environmental interests.

"It's turned into this ATM for exiting Democrat administrations who want to pay the political payback to special interest groups," Hughes said.

Rep. Joel Briscoe (D, Salt Lake City), argued against the resolution, saying the land preserved by Obama is uniquely important to Native American Tribes in the American Southwest.

"There are stories told down through the generations for these tribes about things that will happen in the future in this land," Briscoe said.