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San Juan, Politicians Condemn New Monument

Judy Fahys
Last summer San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams repairs a sprinkler valve in his hayfield this summer. On Thursday, he called on Congress to listen to locals on the Bears Ears National Monument.

The day after President Barack Obama created a new national monument in San Juan County, hundreds of people gathered at the county seat to protest the move.

People spilled onto Monticello’s Main Street as speakers denounced the monument and the man who made it, the president of the United States.

“President Obama, you have offended every person in San Juan County,” said rancher and County Commissioner Bruce Adams.

“We ask the president-elect: Trump this monument.”

Adams and other speakers made it clear their fight isn’t over. They talked about federal oppression, principles violated and secret decisions. Some predicted the monument will mean an end to hunting and ranching, even though its 1.35 million acres will be overseen by the same agencies, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.


State Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, warned about more federal encroachment based on his experience with the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument 20 years ago.

“You won’t keep your wood-cutting,” he told the crowd. “You won’t be able to keep your guns in the future, I guarantee you that. They will take over this county, and they will dictate what they want to do.”

Several Native Americans spoke. So did state legislators and a member of Congress. Wade Garrett, representing Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said his boss had already begun sending subpoenas to investigate the monument decision.

Monument supporters stayed away from the rally, but at least one weighed in. The conservation group, Center for Western Priorities, followed the speeches on Twitter and released a statement afterward that called the gathering more grandstanding. Instead, the group said, locals should be celebrating.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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