Secretary of the Interior steps into tug of war on Utah public land

Salt Lake City (AP) — For decades, tug of war on public land has taken place in vast areas of southern Utah, with red rocks showing petroglyphs and unique twin bats swelling from grassy valleys. I will.

A series of U.S. officials advocate expanding national monuments to protect many archaeological and cultural sites in the region that are considered sacred to the surrounding tribes, and they. Heared from people who violently oppose what they consider to be a federal overkill.

On Thursday, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland will be the latest cabinet bureaucrat to visit Bears Ears National Monument — and First indigenous people..

Harland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico, will meet with tribes and elected officials at Bears Years. We will then submit a review of President Donald Trump’s decision to shrink the site and whether to cancel another Utah citizen, Grand Staircase-Escalante. Monument.

Visit emphasizes her Unique position as the first Native American To lead a sector with broad authority over tribal states, energy development, and other uses of the country’s vast federal lands.

Charmiller, a professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College, said:

Mr Miller said the outcome of the negotiations could reveal how the Biden administration would respond to other public land disputes and could affect subsequent conversations with other states on natural resources. Said.

Harland faces competing interests: tribes across the United States Welcomed her confirmation As an opportunity for Republican leaders to hear their voice and protect their land and rights Labeled her “radical” With President Joe Biden, someone who could block oil and gas development and destroy thousands of jobs.

Pat Gonzales-Rogers, secretary general of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, said he was looking forward to Harland seeking the opinion of a tribe that his predecessor to the Trump administration called a “distant cry.”

He pointed out that Harland is familiar with the landscape — the Bears Years include many places of spiritual importance to Pueblo, New Mexico — but she is responsible for listening from all sides. I admitted.

“She is the Secretary of the Interior of all of us, which also requires her to engage with other groups.”

The coalition wants the monument to return to its original size or expand further, but Gonzales Rogers said he hopes that Harland’s visit will at least be a step towards a more certain one.

“All parties want some degree of permanence and don’t want it to fluctuate between either the administration or political ideology,” he said.

Prominent Utah Republicans, including US Senator Mitt Romney and new governor Spencer Cox, expressed concern over the review under the Biden administration and demanded the involvement of state leaders. Harland is expected to meet with Vice-Governor Daedra Henderson and US Congressman Blake Moore during his visit.

Romney said the conference would give Haaland an opportunity to receive valuable feedback from local officials and residents.

“This visit is not a one-sided action, but a cooperation with Congress towards a permanent legislative solution for the boundaries and management of the monument that reflects the views of Utah, local and tribal leaders. I hope to emphasize the importance to the Secretary, “he said.

Former President Barack Obama declared Bears Years a national monument in 2016. This place was first designated at the specific request of the tribe.

The border was reduced by 85% under the Trump administration, but the Grand Staircase-Escalante was cut by almost half. This reduction paves the way for potential coal mines and oil and gas drilling on previously off-limits lands. Activities were restricted due to the power of the market.

Environmental, tribal, paleontological and outdoor recreational organizations are calling for the restoration of the original boundaries of the monument. The president claims that he has no legal authority to modify the monuments created by his predecessor. Republicans, on the other hand, said the Democratic president abused ancient law signed by President Theodore Roosevelt to specify a monument that went beyond what was needed to protect archaeological and cultural resources. Insisted.

Harland plays an important role in deciding what will come next.

She said she would follow Biden’s agenda, not herself, regarding oil and gas drilling, and told reporters at a briefing last week that her report to the president knew and understood the area. He said it would reflect conversations with people.

“It starts with listening,” she said, adding that she had been to Bears Years and knew “how special it was.”

The Biden administration Decision to review the monument Is part of an extensive plan to tackle climate change and overturn the Trump administration’s “harmful policies.”

But Mike Noel, a former state congressman who criticized the expansion of the monument, said it was a mistake for the administration to “go back and rub salt on the wounds” by overturning Trump’s decision.

He said not allowing local and state officials to make these decisions would only divide the parties further.

“When such a decision is made from Washington, DC, it’s never a good thing,” Noel said. “I think it’s done wrong, and I hope the new secretary admits it.”

Wilfred Elera Jr., chairman of the Governor’s Council of All Pueblo and former Governor of Laguna Pueblo, said places like Bears Years and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico have linked tribal members to their ancestors. I did. He said it was the council’s highest duty to protect them.

“Our current challenge, this threat to our cultural survival, is symbolized by these two examples and many other areas of equal importance,” he said.


Eppolito is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in the local newsroom to report on unreported issues. Associated Press author Susan Montoya Brian of Albuquerque, New Mexico and Matthew Daily of Washington contributed to the story.