“The original Antiquities Act passed as a way of conserving land,” Republican Utah Rep. Rob Bishop said. “It’s no longer used that way. Now it’s used as a political purpose to make a political statement on land that is not endangered in any way.”
The issue is particularly sensitive in the American West, where the vast majority of federally owned and controlled land lies.
“In the West, almost half of the land, versus 4 percent in the East, is owned by the federal government,” Bishop said. “So in my state of Utah, 70 percent is owned and controlled by the federal government. So we in the West clearly see this differently, because we face it and live with it every day.”
A draft Interior Department memo in 2010 suggested 12 sites for possible national monument designation by President Obama. The land already is mostly in federal hands, but a monument designation would more tightly restrict access.
All of the sites are in the West, including Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico, which President Obama declared a new national monument in May.
Four of the other 11 sites in the Interior memo are in the state of Utah. Recently, 14 U.S. senators wrote to Obama urging him to declare a Greater Canyonlands monument in Utah. None of the senators live in the Intermountain West, much less the state of Utah, where anger over a previous national monument designation is still palpable.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert recalled how then-President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, by far the nation’s largest, covering an area the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
“President Clinton in 1996 — denying that he was going to do it without any input from our congressional delegation or local government or state government — just one day announced this designation,” Herbert said.
Bishop said “there were so many problems with it that were never solved when it was created.”
“They were never solved because it was a simplistic overreach and you didn’t go into the details,” he said.
Emery County Commissioner Ethan Migliori said the monument is still a “bitter conversation in Utah.”
The problem, Migliori said, is the designation effectively “shut down everything” in that area.
“You can’t access it anymore … even on designated roads,” Migliori said.
Just wait until ISIS arrives in this country. The fool will look like a wimp.