Commissioners Phil Lyman, Rebecca Benally, and Bruce Adams, along with county administrator Kelly Pehrson, spent two days meeting with a host of officials on a whirlwind trip to the nation’s capital.
The trip included meetings with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Zinke is directed by the executive order to review use of the Antiquities Act over the past 21 years, including the December, 2016 creation of Bears Ears National Monument.
Adams reports the meeting with the Interior Secretary went well, adding, “He was very attentive for the hour we spent with him. He said he wanted to fix the problems in the past, stay within the law and see that land is managed for multiple use.”
The 1.35-million acre national monument, which covers more than 25 percent of the county, has been the focus of intense criticism. Every elected official with direct responsibility over the land in question has signaled opposition to the monument, including Trump himself.
Before signing the executive order, Trump said, “It was a massive federal land grab... It should have never happened.”
Commissioner Adams said the county group had three goals for the meetings. “We want to provide facts, deliver resolutions, and help Secretary Zinke fulfill the executive order.”
Adams said the county will provide maps and overlays to help the federal officials understand the size and scope of the national monument.
“We are not suggesting alternatives,” said Adams. “We are just providing accurate information.”
Resolutions from county and state entities will be delivered, in addition to a new resolution from the Aneth Chapter opposing the designation.
Regarding assisting Secretary Zinke, the commissioner added, “We want the 45-day review to be a chance to fulfill the executive order. We will encourage him to do his job.”
During his confirmation hearings before the US Senate, Zinke said that a visit to the Bears Ears area would be a top priority.
While official plans have not been announced, it is assumed that Zinke will visit San Juan County in the near future.