Bears Ears in the News: Feb. 12-25
Two weeks of updates for the price of one! Here's what you may have missed on the Bears Ears beat:
Utah Rep. John Curtis, who represents residents of the Bears Ears region, has gotten an earful from constituents and politicians on both sides of the aisle who either love or hate his "Bears Ears bill." (The bill, which would memorialize the reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument, is explained more fully here.) The venerable San Juan Record covered a community meeting in San Juan County in which Curtis at turns explained and defended his bill before admitting it was likely as good as dead.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Environmentalist group sues Trump administration seeking documentation of a controversial decision impacting public land/flora/fauna/air/water/etc.; Trump administration fights to keep the desired information under wraps. In this case, the information in question is contained within documents "written during the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations [which] may justify why those former presidents made the monuments as large as they did and thus undercut Trump's plans to shrink them."
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye calls Rep. Curtis' bill "tribal in name only."
Mike Noel represents the area surrounding Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and has been an outspoken critic of Grand Staircase-Escalante and other monuments created by presidential executive order. He celebrated when President Trump shrank Grand Staircase and Bears Ears (ironically, by executive order). Now, he is attempting to use his perceived political clout to vindicate San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, who in 2014 led an ATV ride through southeastern Utah's Recapture Canyon to protest the Bureau of Land Management's closure of a road there several years prior. Lyman was sentenced in late 2015 to 10 days in jail and three years' probation. Lyman has become somewhat of a martyr among states'-rights advocates in Utah and around the West; receiving a presidential pardon would likely amplify his standing among the self-declared Sagebrush Rebels.
(Read excerpts from our 2016 conversation Phil Lyman at Terrain.org.)
Once again, Utah's Republican politicians are urging their congressional representatives to draft a bill that would exempt the state from future uses (or abuses, as they see it) of the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to establish national monuments on public land through executive order. There's nothing these Sagebrush Rebel sympathizers hate more than government overreach; to them, the Antiquities Act is one of the most egregious examples of same.
A very good primer on the Antiquities Act - and the century-plus of battles it has inspired.
After receiving numerous complaints from Western governors on both sides of the aisle, embattled Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke agreed to alter his plan to reorganize Interior based on watersheds and other natural features. Zinke's vision, which would have done away with the current state jurisdictional boundaries, struck many as complex at best and cumbersome at worst. Some opposed to the plan contended it was exactly the type of top-down solution that Zinke has denounced: developed by faraway politicians, with minimal input from locals.