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Health, Science & Environment

Interior Secretary Mentions Utah In Conservation Speech

Tami Heilemann
U.S. Department of the Interior
A Q&A between Secretary Sally Jewell and National Geographic Editor-in-Chief Susan Goldberg followed Jewell's speech on the next 100 years of conservation.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell delivered a kind of public-lands manifesto in Washington on Tuesday and mentioned Utah while talking about the “course correction” she envisions for the nation’s conservation strategy.

Jewell described an urgency in conserving America’s natural beauty and ecological resources. She praised the Bureau of Land Management planning process underway in Moab’s redrock country.

She also criticized efforts born in Utah that have become what she called “an extreme movement to seize public lands” and sell them for short term gain to the highest bidder.

“This movement,” she said at the National Geographic Society in Washington, “has propped up dangerous voices that reject the rule of law, put communities and hard-working public servants at risk, and fail to appreciate how deeply democratic and American our national parks and public lands are.”

The comment jabbed at Utah state legislators behind the lands-transfer idea that they’ve been promoting throughout the West and in Congress and they’re prepping to fight for at the U.S. Supreme Court. Jewell also alluded to efforts by Utah leaders to stop President Obama from using the century-old Antiquities Act to declare national monuments, like one rumored for a scenic area in southeastern Utah called “Bears Ears.”

“I do not think the Act should only be used in places where there is complete agreement, as some are suggesting,” she said in the live-streamed speech.

Jewell said the Grand Canyon, Muir Woods, Joshua Tree and Zion wouldn’t have been protected if the Antiquities Act required consensus. She also described initiatives to address climate change and other risks to public lands.

“At a time when they face threats from land grabs to climate change, we can’t afford to turn our backs on them,” she said. “That won’t happen because I believe we are at the dawn of a new conservation era in America.”

Jewell said she’s planning to visit with Utahns again soon to discuss the initiatives.

But the public was already commenting on her remarks while she spoke Tuesday. A real-time chat that accompanied her speech included quips from the West’s oil and gas industry, Native Americans and environmentalists who support the Bears Ears Monument proposal.

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