Under the direction of President Trump, the Department of the Interior gathered public comments over the span of two weeks on whether Bears Ears will lose its National Monument status. After having toured Bears Ears last month, meeting with Gov. Gary Herbert and other state leaders, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made his recommendation to the Trump administration Monday.
Zinke recommended that the Bears Ears National Monument be scaled back in size, calling on Congress to designate how selected areas of the 1.3 million-acre site should be managed. Citing his respect for Native American tribes, Zinke said he wanted to preserve tribal cultures and suggested that Congress grant tribes the legal authority to “co-manage” portions of the land.
Utah State Senator Lyle Hillyard said the issue is not “black and white.”
“We in the State of Utah, we readily admit that a substantial amount of that land should be protected,” Hillyard said, “and so it’s not really the desire of the Legislature or Utah, as I speak for the Legislature, to take all this land back and then somehow privately develop it, and that’s kind of an image out there. I think we’ve all agreed there’s like 200,000 acres of it that really is pristine and we ought to protect it, and I think the state can give the Native Americans the better protection they really want on that land.”
Hillyard said it has never been the desire of the Legislature to take back state parks or national parks, but only to enhance them. He said in recent years, the state has been successful in making the state parks generate money, whereas they were costing money prior to the state taking them back.
Zinke said some of the Bears Ears National Monument should be designated for conservation or recreation. He also said he supports Native American efforts to restore “sovereignty, respect and self-determination” on land considered sacred by the tribes. Hillyard has expressed continued concern about Bears Ears, lambasting the unilateral use of presidential power in designating national monuments.