On Saturday, I was able to attend a public hearing that was based around a possible Bears Ears National Monument designation or supporting the process of the Public Lands Initiative (PLI) and designating the Bears Ears as a National Conservation Area (NCA).
Before Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell made it to Buff, UT, she met with elected officials, public land managers and the public and toured Emery, Grand and San Juan Counties. Emery was first on Wednesday, where we were able to explain to her what we have gone through in our Public Lands process.
The 10th Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectfully, or to the people.” Even though, DOI Secretary Jewell was here listening to the people, I feel a designation by the President through the Antiquities Act would be overreach by the Executive Branch. Anything like this should start and end with the local people.
I was in Bluff at the hearing to show support for the PLI. There were approximately 1500 people, only about 500 could fit inside. Everyone who was able to comment had two minutes. There were some who were given time specifically to comment, everyone else was on a lottery system. There were over 600 people who put in to comment. In the three and a half hours for the meeting only about 72 were able to make verbal comments. However, anyone who wanted to was able to submit written comments. The ones who were specifically given time were elected officials, those representing elected officials and leaders of Native American Tribes.
I was given some time and my comments were as follows:
Emery County is supportive of the Public Lands Initiative. We are committed to all stakeholders, especially those who are active resource users, regularly benefiting from the natural resources available on our public lands. Because this is a local process I would like to know with the raise of the hand how many are from San Juan County? (About half raised their hands) How many are from Utah? (About three quarters raised their hands)
Besides the conservation measures that sometimes steal the spotlight in the PLI, the proposed legislation will also assure regulatory certainty for recreationists, livestock permittees, energy developers and others.
The specific management details with PLI are only possible by engaging, accommodating and honoring the specific knowledge that only the resource users can provide. Management theory, guidelines, GIS and computer modeling are helpful tools, but unless there is good, basic, grass roots, time tested information made available to plug into these tools, the results are questionable.
The PLI process is: locally driven, all inclusive, down to earth collaboration.
The tally that I had for those that commented either for or against the monument is as follows.
|For National Monument||For NCA-PLI||Unsure|
Everyone who made comments were for the protection of Bears Ears, although some were for the monument and some were for the PLI and some I couldn’t tell from their comments. From the comments it looked pretty evenly split, but from the crowds cheers it seemed that the people not in favor of the monument were more numerous.
San Juan Commissioner Rebecca Benally said that she supports the PLI and the NCA for Bears Ears. She spoke how 500 and 200 years ago there were broken treaties, and that she was disappointed in the false information dividing her Native American brothers and sisters. San Juan Commissioner Bruce Adams, suggested that there should be a referendum vote by the citizens of San Juan County on whether or not they want the monument designation for Bears Ears. This would give just the citizens of San Juan a vote. Both Commissioners received loud praise from the crowd.
One commenter asked the question to the crowd, that from San Juan, specifically to the five chapters of Native Americans, if they feel they have been heard and if they want a national monument. All I heard was a resounding, “No!”
Another said that statistics and evidence from other national monuments show there is more damage to an area because of the designation. However, with an NCA there is less draw but the protection is still there. There are already rules and laws in place to protect what’s there without bringing more attention to it.
From the comments that were made it seems there are many fears, misinformation, and misunderstandings of what the PLI is/does and what a monument might accomplish.
Below is a video from the Sutherlands Institute.
I hope the President listens to the people and trusts the locally driven process, but I have been burned before by his hope and change and I feel that this was a dog and pony show so they can say, “There was public input,” and make a national monument through executive order. I hope I am wrong.