That photo of the newly created Bears Ears National Monument posted by the White House? Turns out it’s not Bears Ears.
Utah lawmakers already outraged by the administration’s decision to designate the monument over enormous local opposition say President Obama added insult to injury by using the wrong photo in his Wednesday announcement.
Critics say the photo shows Arches National Park, about 120 miles from Bears Ears, which is named after its twin 9,000-foot buttes.
“We should be particularly disturbed by the fact that the same people who made this decision, the same people who decided to declare this national monument, apparently don’t know the difference between the Bears Ears area and Arches National Park,” said Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, in a video.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, called the mix-up “classic,” saying on Twitter that the administration “couldn’t find a pic of Bears Ears & doesn’t even know where it is. #WorstPresidentEver.”
The official White House account tweeted an image captioned, “Bears Ears and Gold Butte National Monuments protect over 1 million acres of sacred sites, spectacular scenery, and important natural and cultural resources in the desert landscapes of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada.”
Mr. Obama also drew criticism for failing to travel to Utah for the Wednesday announcement after spending the holidays in Hawaii.
“How do we know this was an out-of-state designation? The photo is from Arches, not from #BearsEars,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, on Twitter.
The decision to designate the 1.35-million-acre monument abutting the Navajo Nation in the southern Utah desert was cheered by national environmental groups but decried by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, the congressional delegation and the San Juan County Council.
The monument also had the backing of the five-tribe Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition despite the opposition of local Navajo residents, who said the designation would limit their access to firewood, medicinal plants and grazing and hunting territory.
Mr. Obama, who cited his authority to designate the two monuments under the Antiquities Act, pointed to the region’s “important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes.”
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced immediately afterward that he would file a lawsuit as well as work with President-elect Donald Trump in order to reverse the Bears Ears designation.
“The Antiquities Act was passed to protect archaeological sites from pillage by treasure hunters with narrow, focused designations of thousands of acres or only what was absolutely necessary,” said Mr. Reyes. “It has turned into a tool for the Executive Branch to bypass proper Congressional authority, to designate millions of acres at a time and far beyond what is necessary to preserve sacred sites.”
Mr. Lee said one important distinction between Bears Ears and Arches National Park is that the latter was designated by Congress, not by executive fiat.
“You should be concerned about this. You should be worried about the fact that we put this much power in the hands of one person, one person, the President of the United States,” Mr. Lee told viewers. “This is not the American way.”