MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA (mongabay.com) - On Wednesday, United States President Barrack Obama created two new national monuments: The Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah and the Gold Butte National Monument in southeastern Nevada.
Using the executive power inherent in the Antiquities Act of 1906, Obama protected about 1.35 million acres in Utah and nearly 300,000 acres in Nevada with this move.
In a statement, Obama said that the designation will help “protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes.”
The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (USFS) will jointly manage Bears Ears National Monument, while BLM will be in charge of managing Gold Butte National Monument.
Environmental groups and Native American tribes, who have long advocated the protection of both areas, applauded the decision.
Under the new designation, five Native American tribes — Hopi Nation, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Zuni Tribe — will co-manage the Bears Ears National Monument, while still being allowed to access the areas for traditional collection of plants and firewood.
“We are particularly pleased that the designation affirms tribal sovereignty and provides a collaborative role for Tribes to work with the federal government in maintaining the land,” said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye. “Because Tribes will help manage this land, it reaffirms President Obama’s fundamental commitment to human rights and equity in voice. Furthermore, while the land will be protected, our local Utah-based tribal members will continue to have access to the land for gathering ceremonial herbs. The land has always been a place of sacredness and fortitude for our people. Now it will be preserved for all future generations.”
The monument designations will also maintain certain other currently authorized uses of the land that, including off-highway vehicle recreation, hunting and fishing and authorized grazing, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, said in a statement. Valid existing rights for oil, gas, and mining operations, military training operations, and utility corridors in the areas will also remain unaffected.
Not everyone is happy, though. Some local residents and elected Republicans have called the new designations “federal land grabs”.
“The midnight move is a slap in the face to the people of Utah, attempting to silence the voices of those who will bear the heavy burden it imposes,” Jason Chaffetz, Utah’s Republican congressman, said in a statement. “…It does not have the support of the Governor, a single member of the state’s Congressional delegation, nor any local elected officials or state legislators who represent the area.”
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Updated 23 days ago Article ID# 3978379