The progress of the Congressional effort may be the only thing standing in the way of a unilateral designation of a new national monument in San Juan County. Millions of acres of public lands in the county are being considered for the designation, which could be made with a stroke of a pen by President Barack Obama.
As the County Commission moves toward a final recommendation, which will culminate several years of open public process in San Juan County, officials of the federal administration may be moving toward a secret and unilateral designation by President Obama, under the authority of the Antiquities Act.
The Antiquities Act has been used by U.S. Presidents for more than 100 years to create national monuments, including three which were created by Obama in recent weeks.
In his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama vowed, “And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”
San Juan County is wrapping up a multi-year effort to develop a local proposal. A committee comprising more than a dozen local residents worked to develop a recommendation to the commission.
The committee’s final recommendation to the commission includes support for the establishment of eleven wilderness areas on federal lands which are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In addition, the proposal calls for the creation of National Conservation Areas (NCA) on Cedar Mesa and Indian Creek.
Information about the recommendation can be found at the San Juan Record website at www.sjrnews.com or at the San Juan County website at www.sanjuancounty.org/lands_bill.htm .
In recent days, a new proposal adds to dozens of proposals which have been submitted by a host of other organizations. However, instead of simply adding another idea to a large pile of proposals, the new proposal may have support at the highest levels of government.
A meeting was held at the Bears Ears in San Juan County on July 18. Media reports state that a number of high-level administration officials attended the meeting.
Afterwards, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition announced that they were seeking additional protection for 1.9 million acres of public land in San Juan County alone.
This represents one of the largest proposals yet on the table. Many of the pro-wilderness and protection proposals previously proposed for the lands billed (such as the Greater Canyonlands National Monument) have focused on the public lands west of Highway 191 between Moab and Blanding and north of Highway 95 between Blanding and Lake Powell.
However, the new Bears Ears Proposal includes the public land west of Highway 191 beginning north of the Navajo Reservation and even crosses Hwy 191 to include the White Mesa reservation and portions of the Recapture Pocket.
The coalition supporting the Bears Ears proposal includes a number of Native Americans tribes, led by the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni Pueblo, Ute Tribe of the Uinta Ouray Reservation, and Cochiti Pueblo tribes.
An additional 25 tribes and pueblos expressed support for the proposal, in addition to groups including Utah Diné Bikéyah, the Conservation Lands Foundation, Grand Canyon Trust, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, and Friends of Cedar Mesa.
More information about the Bears Ears proposal can be found at www.bearsearscoalition.org/ .