Criteria (ii) whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest”
President Barack Obama’s presidential proclamation establishing the Bears Ears National Monument lists objects like “mule deer,” “sagebrush” and “star filled nights” as justification for the designation. None of these (or most of the other objects listed in the Proclamation) qualify as antiquities. Furthermore, they aren’t unique to San Juan County and can be found throughout the Western United States. The original intent of the Antiquities Act was to protect Southwestern petroglyphs, ancient cliff dwellings, and other Native American archaeological sites. Using commonplace objects, such as those listed in Obama’s proclamation, flies in the face of the original intent of the Antiquities Act and provides avenues for presidential overreach.
Criteria (iii) the effects of a designation on the available uses of designated Federal lands, including consideration of the multiple-use policy of section 102(a)(7) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)), as well as the effects on the available uses of Federal lands beyond the monument boundaries
Utahns have seen firsthand that national monuments restrict access and multiple uses of public lands. For example, there is a sign outside the Natural Bridges National Monument in San Juan County that reads in big bold letters: “No Woodcutting.” Local Native Americans who rely on wood to heat their homes, cook their food and build their fences have been denied access to this life-sustaining resource. Even when monument management plans “guarantee” that certain activities will continue after a designation, Utahns know monuments hold hollow promises.
The last national monument designated in Utah illustrates this reality. When President Bill Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Garfield and Kane counties, his proclamation promised residents that grazing would continue: “Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to affect existing permits or leases, or levels of livestock grazing on federal lands within the monument.”
Nearly 20 years later, the number of animals grazing on the monument has declined by almost a third. The Bureau of Land Management has revoked permits and closed much-needed rangeland. Those ranchers left in the area face an uphill battle. They can’t extend or move water lines within their allotments, fence riparian areas, maintain roads, or take other necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of their livestock. This is slowly pushing cattle off the range and ranchers off the land their families have worked for generations.
Criteria (iv) the effects of a designation on the use and enjoyment of non-Federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries;
While ATV riding, woodcutting, the gathering of traditional herbs and medicines, grazing, and a host of other activities are threatened by the Bears Ears National Monument, the designation extends well beyond federal lands. In addition to the private property within the monument, 109,000 acres of state trust land is affected. These lands’ sole purpose is to produce funding for Utah’s schoolchildren. The Bears Ears National Monument will severely restrict how these lands are used and the venue they produce. Obama’s designation impacts public schools throughout the state of Utah.
Criteria (v) concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation, including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected States, tribes, and localities
Utah’s entire congressional delegation, Governor Gary Herbert, the state Legislature, the Aneth Chapter of the Navajo Nation, and all of San Juan County’s commissioners, its school board and city councils opposed the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument. While each has unique reasons for this position, economic development is a consistent theme throughout. San Juan County currently contains all or part of one national park, three national monuments, a national recreation area and a national forest. Yet it is the poorest county in the state of Utah and one of the most economically depressed counties in the entire nation. Healthy economies rely on a host of activities to drive them. While tourism has a prominent place in San Juan County’s economy, it alone is not the answer to the county’s economic woes.
Criteria (vi) the availability of Federal resources to properly manage designated areas
Obama’s proclamation charges the BLM and USFS to provide added protections for the new national monument. However, these two federal agencies are strapped for cash – having a combined deferred maintenance backlog of more than $6 billion. When you consider that the new monument will bring more tourists but not added protection, it is clear that the cliff dwellings, cultural resources and pristine landscape will be put at risk as never before.
Sutherland Institute recommends that the Bears Ears National Monument be rescinded, based on the above criteria and the calls from San Juan County residents and their elected officials. Land management doesn’t have to be seen in terms of winners and losers. Economic development, conservation, protection of cultural resources and recreation can all coexist on public lands. Rescinding the Bears Ears National Monument will pave the way for this type of management and secure the American dream for the people of San Juan County.