Gov. Herbert statement on designation of Bears Ears National Monument

SALT LAKE CITY (Dec. 28, 2016) – Gov. Gary R. Herbert issued the following statement on President Barack Obama’s national monument designation:

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.