By Boyd Matheson
Published on December 4, 2017

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I am sure President Donald Trump didn’t realize it, but today, in his shrinking of the two designations made by President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton, he actually created a more important monument — a monument to the way Utah gets things done.

The president listened to the combined voices of individual citizens, tribal members, small communities and elected officials from the county, state and federal levels. He responded to their calls and drastically reduced the size of both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments. It’s an important moment in Utah history.

Utah — more than any other state in the nation — epitomizes the motto which sat on President Ronald Reagan’s desk in the Oval Office. It read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go as long as he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” That is why the Utah model works. As a people, we don’t care who gets credit as long as we get the right result. There is no “I” in Utah.

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The changes brought about by the president’s actions were truly the culmination of countless, and often thankless, hours of effort by an army of individuals and groups. Our federal delegation, including Chairman Rob Bishop, Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Orrin Hatch, Rep. Mia Love, Rep. Chris Stewart and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, all deserve praise and thanks. Their dedicated staffs in Washington and in Utah did much of the hard work and heavy lifting to drive this decision. Gov. Gary Herbert and members of the Utah Legislature worked tirelessly to make today a reality. Committee staff in Washington, along with Secretary Ryan Zinke and his entire team at the Department of Interior, should also receive high praise. The president’s desire to make a difference for the hardworking, and often forgotten, Utahns in our rural counties also played a critical part.

If those listed above were the only people who warranted credit we could stop there, but that would leave out thousands of others who are equally, if not more, deserving of credit. County commissioners, mayors, council members, lands experts, reporters, researchers, ranchers, farmers, tribal elders, grassroots organizations, schoolteachers, children, a medicine woman and many, many more gave their time, talent, energy and effort to produce these monuments that balance stewardship of the land with the needs and desires of the local people.

All of the players who faithfully fulfilled their roles in this effort were committed to having the right conversations, with the right people, in the right way, to produce the right result for the state and our rural communities.

There is a reason the symbol for Utah is the beehive. Bees aren’t obsessed with credit, who gets the photo op or who makes the nightly news. Bees are focused on their common goal and the greater good of their community. That symbol contains the reason Utah continues to lead the nation as the best place to work, live, raise a family and create a great life. Like the beehive, Utahns appreciate that results are what matter most and who gets the credit matters least. When each resident understands they are needed while recognizing the value and vital role of every other resident – it produces the nectar of a successful society and the sweet honey of a happy and vibrant community. In Utah, the hive thrives because we are all in this together.

There are innumerable examples every day of good Utah residents who do great things without a thought of who might get the credit. Utah was once again called out as the state with the greatest charitable giving of both money and time in the nation. And I would bet those numbers are actually underreported in Utah because there is a premium here on anonymous giving and secret acts of service.

Washington is the polar opposite of the Utah model. In D.C., the race to the microphone or television camera is driven by the need to take credit. It is a zany sort of zero-sum game where if one person gets credit for something, even if it is deserved, it is somehow a bad thing for everyone else. Washington could learn a lot from the people of this state – the process of getting to good policy is a team effort that requires humility, civility and dialogue. No credit checks required.

The president’s action today is worth celebrating. The way that this reduction in monument size actually came about is worth emulating. There is no “I” in Utah.


Boyd Matheson is president of Sutherland Institute. Boyd, who served as chief of staff for Utah Senator Mike Lee in Washington, D.C., has a wealth of experience as a coach, executive adviser and business consultant.

In addition to his service as Sen. Lee’s chief of staff, Boyd most recently built a successful political consulting firm advising national and state elected officials and candidates. From 2005 to 2012, he served as president of Trillium Strategies, a consulting firm focused on branding, business transformation and operational excellence.

Boyd and his wife, Debbie, have five children and four grandchildren.


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