President Barack Obama created the 1.35-million acre monument on December 28. It takes up more than one-quarter of the landmass of San Juan County.
The protest, on the steps of the San Juan County Courthouse, included speeches by a host of local, state and federal elected officials. Comments were made in three languages.
After a prayer by Thomas Morris, San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman discussed how the declaration was made, referring to a midnight Maui executive order by President Obama. The declaration was made while the president is vacationing in Hawaii.
Commissioner Bruce Adams said, “We are all in favor of appropriate protection, but it does not change [that this was done with] undemocratic unilateral decrees. You have offended every single person in this county, it is time to Trump this monument.”
San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge said that the fight is not over and encouraged local resident to “continue to fight in a peaceful manner. God bless America.”
State Representative Mike Noel said, “They ignored us, but they will not ignore us in the future.”
Noel said that you were not able to keep your doctor under Obama care and you will not be able to keep your grazing rights under this designation.
“This has got to have a silver lining,” said Noel. “Stay with us, we will show our grit.”
Congressman Rob Bishop explained that the designation was supposed to happen in July, but it was pushed back because of local opposition.
Bishop said that he would commit to change the Antiquities Act and “right this wrong. The Antiquities Act has been used in shadows and secrets. This is not democracy in action. Carter, Clinton, and Obama abused the Antiquities Act after the midterm election, so there is no accountability to voters.”
A statement from Senator Mike Lee was read in which Senator Lee said he was promised by the Administration that President Obama would not designate monuments without local support. Lee said, “This is no time to despair, this is time to double our efforts. We will fight to repeal the Antiquities Act so future President Obamas cannot ruin other communities. This isn’t the end, this is the beginning. We will fight this battle together and we will win.”
Merri Shumway, of the San Juan School Board, said that it is irresponsible for President to do something that is detrimental to educating school children.
Shumway said that the state lands within the monument should not be traded for lands outside of San Juan County. “We need them to stay in our county.”
Monticello Mayor Tim Young said, “We are all devastated by the news. We are the stewards of the lands here. It is pristine because we take care of it. Government is supposed to be for the people and by the people. We are the people.”
Blanding City Councilman Joe Lyman delivered a statement in which he applauded the efforts of the Stewards of San Juan and other groups that have opposed the monument designation. Lyman said, “President Obama stands alone, as if he is some sort of elected monarch.”
Lynn Jackson, of the Grand County Council, said that people in Grand County support the movement to undo this monument. Jackson said that rural Americans are tired of this type of government and sent a message about it in November. Donald Trump even carried Grand County.
Betty Jones, age 87, spoke in Navajo. She said, “Obama has stolen our land. It hurts me to see what he has done to us. We want our own people to wake up too, our own nation. Mr. Trump, we want you to listen to the Native people out here.”
Suzy Johnson said, “Mr. Obama, you have failed the grassroots natives. A true leader listens and finds common ground. The fight for our land is not over. Your name will blow away in the wind.”
Utah Representative Greg Hughes discussed how a Tweet from the White House, which announced the new monument, included a photo from Arches National Park, not the Bears Ears. “This is a visual evidence of the disconnect between Washington, DC and the very people it impacts.” Said Hughes. “If the federal government can impact this community, it can impact any small town in America.”
Utah Representative Kevin Stratham said, “When a President stops acting like a president and starts acting like a king, we have a way to stop that. Mr. Trump, if you want to make America great again, embrace state sovereignty and trump this monument.”
Utah Representative Todd Weiller said, “Mr. President, this designation will not be your legacy. Your legacy will be as a hypocrite.”
Utah Senator Kevin Van Tassell said, “I have played enough Rook in my life that I know how the trump card works. It is time to play the Trump card.”
Nevaeh Denetsosie, a child, said, “The other tribes, it is really selfish of them to propose a monument here and they don’t even live here.”
An emotional April Charlie said, “We do not need this monument. We stand united as a county. We don’t want this land to be used as others see fit. We have seen fit for generations.”
Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox said, “It is an honor to be here. I can’t feel my hands, my feet, my face, but my heart is on fire because of you. I am so proud of San Juan County.”
Cox, who is from rural Fairview, said that San Juan County is the only county that is poorer than his home in Sanpete.
Cox added, “We live where we live for a reason. With grit we have carved out our lives. The BLM and Forest Service cut grazing permits and never give them back. They are systematically destroying our way of life. We are tired of this constant drip, drip, drip of the federal government taking away our way of life.
“The one time we needed them was when the bark beetle infested the forest. They did nothing about it and the bark beetle destroyed more land than cattle or sheep ever have.
“We all believe these lands need to be protected but not in this way. This land is pristine because the people I am looking at right have protected them.
“This designation is nothing but a pawn for politics. This is crass politics and Obama does not care about us. If we matter, he should come and explain to our faces why this is good for San Juan County.”