Bears Ears bill moving slow
Jan 23, 2018 | 2719 views | 0 0 comments | 584 584 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A federal government shutdown over the past weekend has slowed the already snail-like pace in the US House of Representatives, where a bill has been introduced to formalize changes to Bears Ears National Monument.

H.R. 4532, the Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act, was introduced by Rep. John Curtis on January 9.

The bill has yet to go through the legislative process and even the initial markups have not yet been made.

While there will be significant changes to the legislation as it makes its way through Capitol Hill, several key elements of the initial bill are of intense interest to residents of San Juan County.

The bill would formalize the boundaries of the Shash Jaa and Indian Creek units of Bears Ears National Monument.

The 1.35 million-acre monument was created by Barack Obama in December, 2016, and was reduced by 85 percent by Donald Trump in December, 2017.

The bill would create two separate national monuments, rather than the current single monument with two units

Key elements of the bill include:

• Withdrawal of all mining rights from the boundaries of the initial monument created by Obama.

This withdrawal has been the most controversial aspect of the new bill to many area residents.

A study released by San Juan County shows 95 percent of the land in the initial monument boundaries has stringent restrictions on mining rights.

Of 1.35 million acres in the initial monument, there are restricted mining rights on 1.3 million acres. This includes 215,000 acres in the monuments, 400,000 acres in wilderness study areas, 242,000 acres in forest service, 46,000 acres in wilderness, and various special stipluations, no surface occupancy, and natural area restrictions.

• A management council for each area. Two management councils would manage the monuments. A seven-member Shash Jaa council would include three members of the Navajo Nation, one member of the White Mesa Ute tribe, two county commissioners, and an individual from a federal government agency. This group will develop a management plan.

The initial monument had an advisory role for the Bears Ears Commission. The Bears Ears Commission would continue in an advisory role for the management councils.

The five-member Indian Creek council would include one member from a Utah tribe, two commissioners, and one tribal, one state and one federal representative. They will develop a management plan.

• At least ten law enforcement officials would be designated for each monument.
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