Thursday, December 29, 2016

Obama Designates New Monuments Including Sacred Native American Site

Yesterday President Obama issued Executive Orders designating the Gold Butte area in the Mojave Desert in Nevada (full text of Executive Order) and the buttes known as Bears Ears in southeast Utah (full text of Executive Order) as National Monuments. The Bears Ears site is sacred to a number of Native American tribes, including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Hopi Nation, and Zuni Tribe. In a Statement, President Obama emphasized that he also has established a Bears Ears Commission to bring tribal expertise and traditional knowledge to the management of the Bears Ears National Monument.  In a statement on the White House website, the president of the Navajo Nation shared his thoughts on the establishment of Bears Ears National Monument.

UPDATE: Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (press release) and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (press release) both announced their opposition to the designation of Bears Ears.  Reyes said in part:
The sacred tribal areas in and around Bears Ears should absolutely be protected but in a way that is legally sound and that makes sense. A national monument in San Juan County does not preserve the land but divests it from the very people for whom it is sacred. The local Navajo will no longer be able to gather medicine or firewood, graze cattle, hunt, maintain their livelihoods or access the mountain heights for their religious ceremonies....
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. This case is different from other past challenges by states and counties and we are confident in our chances of success. But the courtroom is not our only option. Our federal delegation is working hard to defund the designation or rescind it altogether. Additionally, we look forward to working with the new Presidential Administration on ways to curtail or otherwise address the designation.