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article imageIn last minute move, Obama creates two U.S. national monuments

By Karen Graham     Dec 29, 2016 in Environment
In a last-minute move on Wednesday, President Obama signed legislation creating two new U.S. national monuments in Nevada and Utah, protecting over one million acres (0.4 million hectares) of sacred sites, beautiful scenery and natural resources.
While being cheered by conservationists and Native American tribes, President Obama's designation of additional federal lands as protected national monuments has angered quite a number of western state lawmakers.
“I am designating two new national monuments in the desert landscapes of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada to protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
Bears Ears National Monument is home to more than 100 000 American Indian archaeological sites.
Bears Ears National Monument is home to more than 100,000 American Indian archaeological sites.
Tim Peterson, Grand Canyon Trust
The Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada adds to Obama's legacy of protecting the environment, bringing his total to over 550 million acres of protected land and waters, more than any other president, according to AFP.
But many western lawmakers are criticizing the president, looking at the move as nothing more than a federal land grab. According to High Country News, Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert and Republican Sen. Mike Lee led a rally in the capital a few days before Christmas, loudly railing against the making of “midnight monuments” and alleged "executive overreach" in the designation of Bears Ears National Monument.
The Bears Ears monument proposal actually had a great deal of support from the public, and Southwestern Native American tribes were the ones behind the initiative to get the monument proposal finalized. Utah officials also fail to acknowledge that the state's "cash cows," five national parks, started as national monuments.
And in an unprecedented move, the Bears Ears National Monument will be co-managed by the federal government and the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Pueblo of Zuni tribes. Together, the tribes and the federal government will manage an area that contains the remnants of ancestral Pueblo sites dating back more than 3,500 years.
One of the sandstone formations found in the Gold Buttes National Monument.
One of the sandstone formations found in the Gold Buttes National Monument.
U.S. Senator Harry Reid
In Utah, the 300,000 acre Gold Buttes National Monument encompasses a wide swath of desert between Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon. Obama used the Antiquities Act to protect the monument. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev. urged the president to designate Gold Buttes as a monument to ensure greater protection and restrictions on land use.
Interestingly, the Gold Buttes monument is close to the Cliven Bundy ranch. Readers may remember that it was Bundy and local ranchers who wanted to keep the federal lands available for agricultural use. This resulted in an armed stand-off between the federal government and Bundy, his sons and their supporters.
As always, now that Donald Trump is about to take office, the question of overturning President Obama's decisions on the two national monuments is being considered. To date, no national monument declaration has been overturned by another president. To do so would require congressional action.
More about Bears Ears National Monument, Gold Butte National Monument, oil and mining rights, federal land grab, conservationists
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