Republican lawmakers are pushing back against President Barack Obama’s creation of two new national monuments in two Western states Wednesday.
Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the House committee that oversees public lands issues, said the administration perpetrated two “egregious lies” in its announcement of the Bears Ears and Gold Butte national monuments.
“The announcement perpetuates two egregious lies,” said Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Obama set aside 1.64 million acres of federal, state and private lands to create two new monuments Wednesday, the most controversial of which is the 1.47 million acre Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah.
The administration said the monuments were similar to those created in legislation passed by House lawmakers in September. That bill was opposed by American Indian tribal officials, but it created smaller monuments that would allow for economic and recreation activity to continue.
“The first being that the size of the monument parallels the Public Lands Initiative,” said Bishop referring to legislation passed by the House in September. “That is not true. The administration is grasping at arguments to justify a lame duck administration’s efforts to do things contrary to the will of the people who live in San Juan County.”
Indians and whites living near Bears Ears supported a smaller monument, and one that would be co-managed by the tribes. The White House created a Bears Ears Commission to give tribes a voice in managing the monument, but Bishop said it’s a distraction.
“The second lie is in the creation of a faux commission to give management authority to Native Americans,” Bishop said in a statement. “This is a diversion.”
“The Utah delegation wants to give management authority to Native Americans; the administration can’t,” he said. “Only Congress can legally do so. This administration over-promised, failed to deliver, and is now trying to hide its ineptitude.”
Obama has designated more than 265 million acres of land as national monuments — more than any other U.S. president. Republicans have been pushing legislation to curb the president’s ability to unilaterally designate national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act.
No one man should be able to unilaterally lock-up millions of acres with the stroke of his pen in the face of overwhelming local opposition.
— Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (@RepGosar) December 28, 2016
“I am extremely disappointed that President Obama has chosen to lock up nearly two million acres of land in Nevada and Utah through these controversial designations,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
“This summer, our committee held a field hearing in Utah to examine this issue, and well over 1,000 local farmers, ranchers, and tribal members showed up to voice their opposition to the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument,” she said in a statement.
Murkowski sponsored a bill requiring national monument designations to get congressional and state approval. She said Obama’s latest designation has “given Congress even more reason to put an end to the abuses occurring under the Antiquities Act.”
Murkowski isn’t alone. Bishop said President-elect Donald Trump has the power to undo national monuments created by Obama.
“It’s never been done before and that’s why people are saying, ‘you can’t do it.’ Of course you can do it. It’s always been implied,” Bishop said in November.
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