Utah AGO working closely with the Governor’s office, legislators, and
San Juan County to file a lawsuit challenging the national monument designation.
SALT LAKE CITY December 28, 2016 – In a statement today, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes condemned President Obama’s designation of a Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County, Utah.
“It is extremely disappointing that President Obama has declared another national monument here in Utah, ignoring the voices of so many in our state, particularly those closest to the designated space. By significantly restricting access to a large portion of public lands in Utah, the President weakens land management capabilities and fails to protect those the Antiquities Act intended to benefit.
“The sacred tribal areas in and around Bears Ears should absolutely be protected but in a way that is legally sound and that makes sense. A national monument in San Juan County does not preserve the land but divests it from the very people for whom it is sacred. The local Navajo will no longer be able to gather medicine or firewood, graze cattle, hunt, maintain their livelihoods or access the mountain heights for their religious ceremonies.
“The Antiquities Act was passed to protect archaeological sites from pillage by treasure hunters with narrow, focused designations of thousands of acres or only what was absolutely necessary. It has turned into a tool for the Executive Branch to bypass proper Congressional authority, to designate millions of acres at a time and far beyond what is necessary to preserve sacred sites.
“Rather than shut out local residents, the Administration should look for ways to strengthen schools, pave roads, and build the local economy. Instead, it rides roughshod over repeatedly expressed local concerns and exceeds the law’s scope as intended by Congress when it passed the Antiquities Act over a century ago.
“My office is working closely with the Governor’s office, federal and state legislators, and San Juan County to file a lawsuit challenging this egregious overreach by the Obama Administration. This case is different from other past challenges by states and counties and we are confident in our chances of success. But the courtroom is not our only option. Our federal delegation is working hard to defund the designation or rescind it altogether. Additionally, we look forward to working with the new Presidential Administration on ways to curtail or otherwise address the designation.
“Utah’s public lands deserve stewardship, but through the appropriate avenue of Congressional action with real participation of state, local and tribal leaders.”
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