San Juan County heats up as the Bears Ears proposal draws attention of Senator Hatch and Governor Herbert

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Governor Gary Herbert were in San Juan County on June 2 to visit the Bears Ears area, with a stop at Natural Bridges National Monument.
While there, they met with San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally and a group of local Navajos who oppose the creation of the proposed Bears Ears National Monument.
Commissioner Benally stated that more than 80 percent of San Juan County Navajos oppose the national monument and would instead prefer to create a National Conservation Area (NCA).
Benally said an NCA would help protect the land and allow traditional use of the land by local residents.
Another group of protesters attended the event in support of the national monument designation.
Led by officials from the Ute and Hopi tribes, they said that traditional uses would be allowed if a national monument was designated.
The supporters said the national monument would be collaboratively managed by the federal government and a coalition of tribes.
Controversy continues to grow surrounding the possible designation of the national monument surrounding the Bears Ears.
In his State of the Union Address in 2014, President Obama said that unless Congress acted, he would use his authority to designate national monuments.
Elected officials from Utah are moving ahead on the Public Land Initiative (PLI) legislation for Congress.
The Congressional action would create an NSA in the Bears Ears area, in addition to addressing public land issues in seven other counties in eastern Utah.
Uncertainty is growing with the Obama administration coming to a close in January, 2017, and continuing delays with the PLI process in Congress.
The proposed Bears Ears National Monument would basically include all of the federal land west of Highway 191. It would include the Abajo Mountains and extend to the northern border of San Juan County.
The visit was part of a weeklong tour of National Park sites by Senator Hatch.

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