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Utah leaders thank Haaland for her tour of monuments, but send a warning to the president
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Utah leaders thank Haaland for her tour of monuments, but send a warning to the president

(Interior Secretary Deb Haaland listens as Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a press conference at Edge of the Cedars Park Museum in Blanding on Thursday, April 8, 2021. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

KANE COUNTY, UTAH – Elected leaders in Utah are thanking Secretary Haaland for her two-day visit to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.  She’s gathering information as the president considers restoring the monuments to their previous size, and lawmakers are warning the Biden administration against making a unilateral decision.

During her visit to southern Utah, Interior Secretary Debra Haaland told reporters her job was to listen to every stakeholder involved.  She said she wanted to find every competing interest to determine the best way to manage the lands, which has been a contentious issue ever since they were designated as national monuments.

In a tweet, Haaland thanked the people who joined her during her visit to the monuments in Utah.  It reads, in part, “It’s a powerful reminder that how we manage public lands and national monuments will provide a path for future generations.”

Utah Senator Mike Lee joined Haaland during her last day, explaining how Utahns were impacted when the lands were no longer available for their use. 

“We spoke with Utahns who live near monuments, Utahns whose professional livelihoods, whose ability to raise their cattle and run their businesses have been adversely affected,” Lee says.

He says they had a good discussion about options that could “reconcile” the interests of the federal government and the needs of people living nearby.  Lee says the best solution will be to make a permanent law through the legislature, adding that designating the monuments through executive orders just led to problems.

“Setting them up to become yet another political ping-pong, going back and forth,” Lee says.  “There is a better way, and it’s through legislation rather than executive order.”

All members of Utah’s congressional delegation and other state leaders issued a statement thanking the secretary for the visit, and calling on President Biden to avoid making the same decisions of previous presidents.

The statement reads…

“We appreciate Secretary Haaland’s visit and thank her and her team for taking time to meet with us and with state, local, and tribal leaders as part of the ongoing review of these monuments. During these discussions, we reiterated our desire to find a permanent legislative solution, which we believe is the only path to finally resolving the longstanding dispute over the monuments’ boundaries and management. If the Administration decides to act unilaterally, a legislative solution that provides certainty will be nearly impossible to achieve. And without protections against the Antiquities Act, Utah is left vulnerable to the whim of future presidents. We continue to urge the Administration to work with us to craft a collaborative, consensus plan that reflects the input of the people most directly impacted and ends the political back-and-forth that our communities have been subjected to for more than 25 years.”


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