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Proposal To Exclude Utah From Antiquities Act Clears Legislature

Austen Diamond / KUER
Utah State Capitol building.

A bill encouraging that the creation of national monuments in Utah be decided by Congress, instead of the President, cleared the legislature on Thursday.

The resolution is titled Urging Exemption from the Antiquities Act. It charges that the federal law used to create monuments has been expanded and abused since it was created in 1906.


This non-binding proposal encourages Utah’s congressional delegation to pursue federal laws to exempt the state from the Antiquities Act.


Senate sponsor David Hinkins said Utah isn’t opposed to national monuments but their creation should be a congressional decision.


"To have the executive branch be able to act like a monarchy and be able to designate where and where not the king’s forest should be is abuse of power," Hinkins said.


The resolution is opposed by tribal groups. AlastairBitsoi is a spokesman for Utah DineBikeyah.


"It creates more tension between the states and the tribes, but also diminishes our voice, our tribal voice," Bitsoi said.


In a letter to state Senators, Utah Dine Bikeyah said the creation of the now-reduced Bears Ears National Monument gave Native people a voice when Congress did not.


If enacted, this would be the third such law in the U.S. — legislators from Alaska and Wyoming got similar exemptions from the Antiquities Act for their states.


Jim Dabakis was one of six Senators to vote against the resolution. He said when Utah’s national parks were created — fouroutoffive of which started as monuments — not everyone thought it was a good idea. But now they’re state icons.


"Sometimes we need to view the land outside of the current generation and into the next hundred and two hundred and five hundred years," Dabakis said.


The resolution now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert.

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