Utah's entire congressional delegation meets with Interior Secretary about Bears Ears

Utah's entire congressional delegation meets with Interior Secretary about Bears Ears. (Photo: Rep. Chris Stewart via Twitter)

(KUTV) Utah's full congressional delegation gathered in Washington D.C. Thursday morning with the Interior Secretary to discuss Bears Ears and the possibility of undoing the national monument in the near future.

This morning U.S. Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke explained what would happen next after President Trump signed and executive order to review all national monument designations in the past 21 years — which includes Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, according to a tweet from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. The review will also include a look into oceans, tribal lands and Sequoias. The order will review 24 national monuments established by three former presidents.

Those in attendance for Utah on Thursday included: Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. Chris Stewart, Rep. Mia Love, Rep. Rob Bishop, and Gov. Gary Herbert. While Rep. Jason Chaffetz was not physically present, he had his staff present for the meeting, making a full delegation, according to a spokesman.

Trump and other supporters of the order say presidents have forgotten the original purpose of the Antiquities Act law created by President Theodore Roosevelt. It was meant to protect specific historical or archaeological sites and not simply large sections of land surrounding the historical areas.

Defenders of the Bears Ears designation include many native tribes living in the area as well as environmental protection groups. Utah Dine Bikeya, a group of Native tribes working to protect the area, called upon then-President Obama to take action, calling it America's most significant unprotected cultural landscape.

Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack applauded the decision in December when Obama named the national monument.

“The rock art, ancient dwellings, and ceremonial sites concealed within these breathtaking landscapes help tell the story of people who have stewarded these lands for hundreds of generations,” Jewell said.

According to the executive order, Secretary Zinke is required to make a decision on Bears Ears and submit a interim report to the president within 45 days. A final decision needs to be made within 120 days on all 24 monuments, according to the order.

Yesterday, Hatch met after the signing with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to talk about next steps for Bears Ears, specifically.

Hatch, who attended the signing ceremony and has been vocal in the news about calling the designation of Bears Ears a "the federal land grab."

Trump praised Hatch during the signing ceremony on Wednesday for insisting he pursue the monument review.

“The President wasn’t joking when he said that I prodded him repeatedly about the public lands issue," Hatch wrote in a statement on Thursday. "And he was absolutely right: I don’t give up. I’m grateful that the President listened and that he even took time after the signing ceremony to meet privately with me and the Vice President to discuss next steps on Bears Ears. In our conversation, the President reiterated that my persistence paid off and it was time to act. Following this historic executive order, I hosted a meeting this morning with Secretary Zinke and members of the Utah congressional delegation to discuss how best to implement the review process so we can work quickly to help the people of San Juan County.”

Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, tweeted that they wanted "local voices to be heard" on the issue.

Native tribes have been hopeful Zinke will hear them and their concerns to protect their sacred land.

Hatch vowed in a tweet a week ago that he will not let the people of San Juan County be ignored again.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert was also in attendance along with Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who said they had an "open and frank dialogue" with Secretary Zinke.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who did not appear to be in attendance on Wednesday for the signing of the executive order to review the Antiquities Act of 1996, issued this statement supporting the decision.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off