- Associated Press - Monday, February 27, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - In the hopes that the new Bears Ears National Monument will be rescinded, a Utah lawmaker announced on Monday that he has introduced a resolution encouraging the state to redesignate a small slice of the area and make it a state park.

Republican bill sponsor Rep. Michael Noel said that the resolution could help to protect about 1,000 acres of land that Native Americans consider spiritual near a set of rock formations for which the Bears Ears area is named.

The area he pinpointed is a minuscule part of the 1.35 million acres protected by the monument designation, all of it considered spiritual by Native American tribes.

The state could buy the small section of land if the monument designation is reversed because of the Recreation and Public Purposes Act, a U.S. law allowing Washington to sell federal land to states and local governments if it is used for recreation or public purposes.

Noel expressed confidence that the Republican-controlled Congress and White House will rescind the monument.

The proposal shows that “we can in fact work more closely with our Native American brothers and sisters to make sure this land is protected,” Noel said.

Gavin Noyes, the executive director of a tribal coalition called Utah Diné Bikéyah, said that they oppose the proposal because the lawmaker hasn’t adequately consulted with tribes about the resolution.

President Barack Obama’s designation in December of the Bears Ears National Monument gave five tribes an opportunity to weigh in on the management of their ancestral home.

Federal officials working for President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees will have the final say on all land decisions, and some tribal officials are concerned that the shared-management arrangement could quickly sour if the incoming administration charts a different course for the monument.

Noel said his proposal encourages Native American control of the land. He said he doesn’t know how much it would cost Utah to buy the land from the federal government.

Mathew Gross, spokesperson for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, questioned the resolution, saying that Utah has a track record of managing parks in ways that do not benefit Utah residents.

Noel’s proposal comes after Utah lawmakers this month passed a resolution urging Trump to repeal the monument designation.

Organizers of the lucrative Outdoor Retailer show said that decision jeopardized the preservation of public lands. They responded by declaring that their show that brings about $45 million in direct spending to the state each year would leave the state. No new location has been announced.

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