Utah’s Republican-controlled Legislature has approved a resolution declaring opposition to a possible national monument in the Bears Ears area of southeastern Utah.
The House and Senate passed a symbolic measure Wednesday evening while meeting in a special session to restore funds cut from some education programs.
Republican officials and local leaders worry that President Barack Obama will use his authority under a 1906 law to protect the 1.9 million-acre area.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert met with reporters to discuss the Bears Ears issue. Herbert says he has been in contact with President Obama’s administration to try and find common ground.
“The Bears Ears is just one part of it,” Governor Herbert said, “ The Bears Ears Butte, I think our Native American brothers and sisters would agree there needs to be some conservation, some protection there. The question really is ‘What the best vehicle to do that?'”
Governor Herbert says there is division on the Bears Ears amongst the Native American tribes living in the area. He says some Native Americans would rather have Bears Ears land area left alone, while others say conservation is the better idea.
“It allows them to have more access,” Herbert said,” [to] hunting and gathering aspects of their culture. And some of their Native American ceremonies will be able to be addressed better under that format.”
Some Native American tribes and conservationists say the area is threatened by off-road vehicles and looting.
President Obama has not said if he’ll declare the monument, but Utah officials worry it’s a foregone conclusion.
Governor Herbert says he will sign the resolution regarding the Bears Ears area.