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Hundreds gather in San Juan County to protest designation of the Bears Ears monument

Hundreds gather in San Juan County to protest designation of the Bears Ears monument (Photo: Daniel Woodruff / KUTV)

(KUTV) With signs of "Locals Matter" and "Trump This Monument" in hand, hundreds of people gathered in San Juan County Thursday morning to protest the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.

That monument, which was announced Wednesday by the White House, angered many people who had been speaking out against the proposal for months. The decision by President Obama means 1.35 million acres of land in southeastern Utah will become a national monument. That land is smaller than the 1.9 million acres some groups had been pushing for.

Speaking at a news conference in Monticello that lasted more than an hour, state and local officials decried the monument.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox called the process "un-democratic" and said it ignored the concerns and needs of people in San Juan County.

"It's nothing more than crass politics," Cox said, "and it's terrible."

San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams said the monument is offensive to everyone in San Juan County and called on Trump to overturn it.

"To help make America great again, it can start right here in San Juan County," Adams said.

In a statement Wednesday, President Obama said the designated the monument to "protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes."

But local San Juan County residents at Thursday's news conference said they are the stewards of the land and don't need the federal government to tell them what to do.

Speakers at the news conference said many of those groups came from out of state and did not represent the will of the people of San Juan County.

But not everyone in the county shares that sentiment. Mark Marybody, who lives in Montezuma Creek, said it was a "glorious day" when he learned the monument was a done deal.

"Bears Ears region will be protected for many, many generations," he said.

Maryboy is critical of those who say the monument will strip local tribes of their access to the land. In fact, the president's proclamation specifically says Native Americans will still be able to gather supplies like medicine and firewood from Bears Ears.

Still, calls to undo what Obama has done are loud -- and getting louder.

Utah Rep. Rob Bishop (R-1st District), who also attended the news conference, told the energetic crowd that he will work with the incoming Trump administration to reverse the national monument.

"If there was ever an opportunity to overturn a monument, this is a classic opportunity to do it," Bishop said.

Whether President-elect Donald Trump will do anything is unclear. But those on the other side -- including Maryboy -- will be watching closely.

"If they want to fight, we're ready to go," he said.

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