- Associated Press - Thursday, July 28, 2016

BLANDING, Utah (AP) - Hundreds of people who oppose the proposed Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah showed up at a Senate field hearing to voice their displeasure for the plan that Gov. Gary Herbert called a “political tomahawk.”

San Juan County residents shouted “doodah” and wore shirts and stickers with the Navajo word that means no during the Wednesday hearing in Blanding, the Deseret News reports (https://bit.ly/2a7jlJa ). Navajos said they’re worried they’ll lose their ability to do sacred ceremonies and gather medicinal herbs. Ranchers expressed concerns about losing grazing rights. Farmers say they would lose their lands.

Gov. Gary Herbert and the rest of Utah’s Republican lawmakers instead support legislation from U.S. Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz that would have Congress designate 1.4 million acres around Bears Ears as a conservation area.

“If you really care about the land, this is not some kind of political tomahawk that you use, no pun intended,” Herbert said. “If this really is about the Bear Ears region, protecting and preserving the land, the (Public Lands Initiative) is by far the superior way to go about it.

A monument proponent took exception to Herbert’s comment.



“When Gov. Herbert refers to a thoughtful tribal proposal for a national monument as ‘a political tomahawk,’ he continues that sad tradition of dismissing Native voices,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities.

The governor’s spokesman, Jon Cox, said Thursday in a statement that Herbert “absolutely takes Native American voices seriously,” and fired a new salvo at environmentalists.

“Environmental groups who continue to insist that all Native Americans support a national monument should do the same thing Gov. Herbert just did and actually visit with tribal members in San Juan County,” Cox said.

Other monument backers called the hearing a “sham” since there were no speakers who support the plan to add protections for a 1.9 million-acre area that includes sacred Native American sites.

Willie Grayeyes, chairman of a tribal coalition pushing the proposal called Utah Diné Bikéyah, said in a statement the hearing was a “thinly veiled effort to make it appear that there is more opposition than truly exists.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said monument proponents and federal officials declined his invitation to participate in the hearing, which he said proves he didn’t purposely set up a one-sided hearing.

The meeting came just weeks after U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited the area and hosted a public town hall to hear from people from both sides. Her visit was the latest indication that President Barack Obama’s administration is giving serious consideration to the “Bears Ears” monument proposal.

Lee brought up President Bill Clinton’s designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996 - a decision that rural Utah residents say harmed the economy in the southern Utah area.

“What they did to us 20 years ago ought to be enough,” Lee said. “No more Antiquities Act in Utah.”

Bishop warned the crowd that President Obama can’t grant proponents the proposed co-management plan that would allow tribal leaders to work with the federal government to oversee the monument.

“A presidential proclamation cannot guarantee squat,” Bishop said.

English teacher Cassy Moon didn’t mince words in forecast dire consequences.

“This will kill our community. We will lose our jobs,” Moon said. “If this happens to us, we will be shut down.”

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