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Trump Directive Zeroes In On Utah Monuments

Judy Fahys
Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell (center) met with Bears Ears supporters last summer. She also toured areas included in the Public Lands Initiative, which was proposed by leaders and locals but failed to get a congressional vote.

The new White House administration is officially stepping into the controversy over Bears Ears today. President Donald Trump is ordering a review of Utah’s newest national monument and possibly dozens more, including Grand Staircase Escalante.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he’ll report his findings about the large monuments created in the past two decades, beginning with Bears Ears. He said several times he hasn't made up his mind already. He'll focus on the law and the people affected.

“The policy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday, “is consistent with President Trump’s promise to give Americans a voice and make sure their voices are heard.”

Utah political leaders have vowed to get the Bears Ears monument scrapped ever since former President Barack Obama created it in December. They call it a “federal land grab” although its 1.3 million acres roughly follows the same footprint as conservation areas that Utahns in Congress have proposed for land already controlled by the federal government. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch welcomed the new administration’s approach in a floor speech.

“In President Trump we have a leader who’s committed to defending the Western way of life,” the Utah senator said. “I am deeply grateful for his willingness to work with us to undo the harm caused.”

But there’s opposition, too.

One environmental group called the review an attack on federal public lands. And a member of the Native American coalition who pushed for Bears Ears is asking why the only monument requested by tribes is now being questioned.

“In one breath, the United States embraces, and even the state of Utah embraces,”said Shaun Chapoose leads the Ute tribe. “But in the second breath it’s almost saying to me, ‘You don’t really matter’.”

Secretary Zinke said he’s coming to Utah to observe the issues firsthand.

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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