By Chris White, DCNF
Utah law officials want to work with President-elect Donald Trump to undue the Obama administration’s decision to designate another national monument in the state.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is vowing to sue President Barack Obama for using executive orders to place large tracts of the state’s land under the purview of the federal government.
“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 press statement Thursday.
Obama created the Bears Ears and Gold Butte national monuments using his powers under the Antiquities Act — portions of Utah and Nevada are included in the designations. The president has used his gavel to place a total of 265 million acres of land underneath federal control during his terms in office.
The White House etched out the 1.47 million acres of land despite fierce opposition from some local Navajo tribal members, who are worried they won’t be able to collect firewood or gather plants in the region thanks to the newly formed monuments.
Republicans are arguing Obama’s move is built on a mountain of lies.
The administration claimed the monuments were no different than those passed by House lawmakers earlier this year, which were, in fact, smaller than the ones designated by the president.
Tribes living near Bears Ears want to co-manage the tract. The White House created a Bears Ears Commission to give tribes a voice in managing the monument, yet the Obama administration cannot authorize such a commission – only states can create such commissions.
“The second lie is in the creation of a faux commission to give management authority to Native Americans,” Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the House committee that oversees public lands issues, said in a statement shortly after the announcement. “This is a diversion.”
“The Utah delegation wants to give management authority to Native Americans; the administration can’t,” he said. “Only Congress can legally do so.”
Reyes, for his part, said that the legal system “is not our only option …. [o]ur federal delegation is working hard to defund the designation or rescind it altogether.”
The Republican attorney general also hinted at recruiting help from the incoming Trump administration.
“Additionally, we look forward to working with the new presidential administration on ways to curtail or otherwise address the designation,” Reyes said.
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