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Interest Group Wrote Bears Ears Resolution, Says Green Group

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Lawmakers had the Sutherland Institute write the Bears Ears resolution that lawmakers passed last winter, an environmental group has learned. Both the GOP and Democrats rely on outside groups to write legislation, a criticized by some.

An environmental group is raising new concerns about efforts to get the Bears Ears National Monument scrapped.

The Western Values Project says it’s “cynical” and “insincere” the way state lawmakers developed their pitch asking President Trump to rescind the new national monument.

“I think it’s important because it’s not a grass roots effort,” says Chris Saeger, the group’s executive director.

Saeger says state records show that lawmakers relied on a resolution that was drafted by a conservative think tank, the Sutherland Institute, and not Utahns.

“It shows the Department of Interior that this is not a sincere, ground up effort, that it is a pretty cynical political play that’s being carried out in concert with special interests,” he says.

The Western Values Project also knocked Utah lawmakers for privately disparaging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and denouncing presidential executive orders -- the very tool lawmakers want Trump to use to dissolve Bears Ears.

Boyd Matheson, president of the Sutherland Institute, dismisses the criticism as “a nothing-burger.”

He says his group consulted with San Juan County residents in drafting the Bears Ears resolution – a resolution that embodies basic values about state and local control that the Legislature and his group share.

“That’s the space we’re really trying to occupy,” he says, “to show principle-based solutions, based on sound policy and as close to the local as we can.”

The resolution passed the Utah’s House and Senate last winter, largely along party lines.

Meanwhile, Zinke continues his review of more than two dozen national monuments. He’s expected to make recommendations to President Trump by the end of the summer.

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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