Obama Designates 1.35 Million Acres in Utah to Protect Native Lands

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In yet another move meant to cement his legacy as an environmental advocate, President Obama recently designated 1.35 million acres of land in Utah for a new national monument, one meant to protect native lands and precious environmental resources.

The Bears Ears National Monument is 1.35 million acres of public land, “redrock country rich with archaeological sites, centuries-old cultural ties and a uniqueness that had inspired Americans’ love of Western vistas,” down from some 1.9 million acres that tribal leaders advocated, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.


In his statement on Wednesday, the president noted:

"Today, 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, including abundant rock art, archeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes. . . . Following years of public input and various proposals to protect both of these areas, including legislation and a proposal from tribal governments in and around Utah, these monuments will protect places that a wide range of stakeholders all agree are worthy of protection."

Yet, the Hill reports that all of Utah’s statewide leaders and congressional delegation oppose the Bears Ears monument, saying it unnecessarily restricts land uses like fossil fuel production. Attorney General Sean Reyes has threatened to sue President Obama over Bears Ears.

“My office is working closely with the governor’s office, federal and state legislators, and San Juan County to file a lawsuit challenging this egregious overreach by the Obama administration,” Reyes said in a statement late Wednesday after Obama’s announcement.

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