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Utah Delegation, Navajos Ask President To Back Off Monument Designation

The Bears Ears in southeastern Utah

Utah’s congressional delegation joined Governor Gary Herbert and Utah Navajos in Washington D.C. Wednesday for a press conference to stress local opposition to President Obama designating the Bears Ears National Monument.

Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop and those who joined him at Wednesday’s press conference said the solution to the land disputes in Southeast Utah is the Utah Public Lands Initiative. The bill would designate certain areas for conservation and set others aside for energy development. Bishop is chair of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“What we have in the public lands initiative was designed by these people,” Bishop said. “It was designed to meet their wants, their needs, there desires. And it can actually be guaranteed to them because we are putting it in statute.”

Earlier Wednesday, members of the Aneth Chapter and Blue Mountain Dine’ of the Navajo Nation delivered a packet of resolutions opposing the monument to Interior Secretary Sally Jewel. It also included resolutions from Descendants of Kaayelii, San Juan County Commissioners, the Utah Legislature and the cities of Blanding and Monticello.

Susie Philemon is a San Juan County resident and a Descendant of Kaayelii. Bears is the birthplace of Chief Kaayelii. She said the federal government can’t be trusted to protect these ancestral lands.  

“We have managed to protect this enchanted place and we will continue to do so,” Philemon said. “Please do not take this land from us. Please, don’t break more promises. Not again.”

Ruby Nakai, the board treasurer for the Descendants of Kaayelii non-profit organization in San Juan County said the organization officially opposes the PLI and is neutral on the idea of a monument. She says Philemon does not represent the group. 

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