After President Barack Obama secured a second term in the November 6 General Election, voices are beginning to grow in the environmentalist community to designate the national monument.
A group of Outdoor Retailers recently petitioned Obama to make the declaration that would create such a monument.
The Greater Canyonlands proposal was introduced in the past year with the support of a number of environmentalist groups, including the Sierra Club and the Southern Utah Wilderness Association.
San Juan County and State of Utah officials have expressed opposition to the proposal, declaring that Congress should designate the status of public land and not a president acting alone.
The San Juan County Commission addressed the subject at their November 19 commission meeting. In addition to expressing opposition to a unilateral designation without consulting local leaders, Commissioners stated that the concerns of Native Americans have not been taken into account.
“While they (outdoor recreation groups) are focused on recreation, we are focused on helping people make a livlihood,” said Commissioner Bruce Adams. “Native Americans use the area to collect fire wood, food and herbs to sustain life. This is a much more fundamental need.”
The Greater Canyonlands proposal also includes federal land in Garfield, Wayne, Emery and Grand counties.
The proposal uses Canyonlands National Park as the anchor and would engulf large swaths of land in all directions. Except for private land, the proposed designation could roughly create national monument status for all public lands in San Juan County west of Highway 191 and north of Highway 95.
This could include the Indian Creek basin, Beef Basin, Horse Mountain, Abajo Mountains, Elk Ridge, Dark Canyon, and BLM ground south of the National Forest. Natural Bridges National Monument would be engulfed in the proposed designation.
President Bill Clinton created a firestorm of controversy in 1996, when he unilaterally declared the creation of the Grand Staircase of the Escalante National Monument in Kane and Garfield counties.
The 1.7 million acre national monument was created by Clinton using the Antiquities Act and was established after no consultation with other elected officials.
Obama could create a massive new national monument in San Juan County under a similar process.