This bird ain’t going to fly unless both wings work together!

During the April 8 press conference to discuss Bears Ears National Monument, a typical spring gust of wind blew through the courtyard at Edge of the Cedars State Park in Blanding. 

The U.S. flag, which was proudly positioned behind the speakers, crashed to the ground. Sure enough, the right wing of the bald eagle finial on top of the flagpole was completely knocked off. 

The damaged flagpole, without a right wing on the finial, was propped up again and stood as a symbolic reference for the rest of the event. 

Unfortunately, this is a painful reminder of the Bears Ears process over the past six years: one side or the other gets their wings knocked off and the subsequent bird can’t quite get off the ground.

After four years of the left wing being underutilized, now it is the right wing that feels like it is being left hanging in the breeze. 

We hope that our elected leaders can find a workable solution this time!

• • • • •

It is clear that the key issue to be resolved by the Biden Administration is not whether or not to expand the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument, but by how much.

The initial monument designated by President Obama in 2016 was 1.35-million acres.  This was created after a group, including tribal entities, had recommended a 1.9-million acre monument.

Tribal and environmental entities seem to favor a 1.9-million acre monument.

However, the possible entrance of the judicial branch of the federal government into the fray may keep the eventual expansion at the 1.35 million acre size.

Soon after President Trump reduced the monument boundaries, a large group of tribal and environmental organizations filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the right of the President to reduce the monument boundaries.  That lawsuit is still making its way through the federal court system.

If President Biden were to restore the monument beyond the initial 1.35-million acre designation, it could trigger the exact same arguments from the right that the left has used to challenge the Trump reduction.

In March, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts outlined several key issues related to use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create national monuments.

Roberts writes, “The creation of a national monument is of no small consequence.”

Further on, he writes, “The President may also reserve ‘parcels of land as a part of the national monuments,’ but those parcels must ‘be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.’” 

Of course, the best long-term solution to these questions is through the legislative process (Congress), rather than through executive action (Antiquities Act), or by a long and drawn-out examination through the court system.

• • • • •

I can’t help but contrast the visit of Secretary Haaland to the two previous visits by Secretaries of the Interior.

In July 2016, Sally Jewell, who came to the office from the outdoor recreation industry, spent several days in San Juan County and visited with hundreds of people who participated in public meetings in Bluff. 

The meetings resulted in a diverse expression of ideas and included a large number of local residents and others who traveled to the meeting.

In June 2017, Ryan Zinke flew into Salt Lake City and met with tribal groups there, but there was not much interaction with Native American leaders while he was in San Juan County.

Zinke, a U.S. Navy Seal, flew to San Juan County and toured the Bears Ears area in a Black Hawk helicopter. 

He held a public meeting in Blanding that was attended by hundreds of primarily local residents.

Zinke also spent time on the back of a horse in the area.  In fact, his official portrait as Interior Secretary is of Zinke on horseback in front of a Bears Ears butte.

Deb Haaland came to the area from an entirely different direction, arriving from the south from her home (and previous Congressional District) in New Mexico.  Haaland’s visit had a strong Native American element, which is entirely logical for the first Native American Secretary of the Interior. 

I am disappointed that no one from Monticello was invited to participate in the meeting with elected officials.

Of the six locally elected officials who attended the event, four are strong supporters of the expanded monument and just two are opposed.

Haaland needs to know that there are strong opinions on both sides of this critical issue which divides the residents of the area.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday