As the deadline nears, Secretary Zinke had one last meeting with San Juan County Commissioners on Monday, June 5 in Washington, DC.
Commissioner Phil Lyman reported after the meeting, “We are happy about the amount of time and attention that has been focused on this. This is not a trivial matter to the federal officials.”
On April 25, Zinke was ordered by President Donald Trump to review a host of national monument designations that have been made over the past previous 21 years through use of the Antiquities Act.
The executive order triggered a 45-day process that has been focused on Bears Ears.
Since the executive order was signed, a flurry of activity has taken place, including a three-day visit to the area by the Interior Secretary and the collection of tens of thousands of public comments on the designation.
Lyman and fellow commissioners Bruce Adams and Rebecca Benally met with Secretary Zinke and members of his staff, in addition to members of the staff of Senator Orrin Hatch.
“It was a good discussion,” said Commissioner Lyman. “As far as I can tell, they have not made a decision and were just seeking more input from the commission.”
While Lyman reports that they pulled out a map during the meeting, the general discussion was more philosophical in nature.
“The basic focus is ‘what can the president do without creating a legal nightmare, and of course, what is the best thing to do,’” said Lyman.
Lyman stated that the meeting was very specific to San Juan County.
Lyman added, “Secretary Zinke has been very interested to hear all voices, particularly from the tribal coalition. He has met with them more times than we have met with him.”
Lyman added, “We are fortunate to have a voice in this decision. This is kind of a messy process, but it is not doing it justice if it wasn’t messy.”
While elected officials and tribal representatives have had significant direct contact with the Secretary of the Interior, Lyman added that environmental groups also have a voice.
“Environmental groups are very present in Washington, DC where they use threats and lawsuits to pursue their agenda,” said Lyman.
The 1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument was created by President Barack Obama on December 28, 2016. The monument includes more than 25 percent of the total landmass of San Juan County.