Congressional Republicans are vowing to fight back after President Barack Obama issued an executive order to designate more than 1.5 million acres in Utah and Nevada as national monuments.
The Bears Ears National Monument in Utah will cover 1.35 million acres. Native American tribes consider the land sacred. The 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument outside Las Vegas includes includes rock art, artifacts and fossils.
The Utah site incited the most heated response.
I will work tirelessly with Congress & incoming Trump administration to honor the will of Utahns and undo this monument designation. #utpol
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) December 28, 2016
“This arrogant act by a lame duck president will not stand,” tweeted Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
San Juan County commissioners, where the monument will be located, objected to the action.
“The push for a monument did not originate from those most impacted by this decision. Instead, it came from outside special interest groups who used deception and collusion to drown out local voices,” they said in a statement.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said the state will sue to reverse the action.
“It is extremely disappointing that President Obama has declared another national monument here in Utah, ignoring the voices of so many in our state, particularly those closest to the designated space,” Reyes said.
“By significantly restricting access to a large portion of public lands in Utah, the President weakens land management capabilities and fails to protect those the Antiquities Act intended to benefit,” he added.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said that Obama’s desire for a legacy ruined efforts to craft a bipartisan solution.
“After years of painstaking negotiations with a diverse coalition, Utah had a comprehensive bipartisan solution on the table that would have protected the Bears Ears and provided a balanced solution. Instead, the president’s midnight proclamation cherry picked provisions of the Public Lands Initiative and disregarded the economic development and multi-use provisions necessary for a balanced compromise,” he said.
The action, much like Obama’s recent move to block offshore oil and gas drilling, cannot be easily undone by his successor.
Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said although presidents can create monuments, they lack the authority to scrap them.
Lawmakers, however, said that a way will be found.
“In the next Congress under President Trump, I will do everything in my power to reverse this travesty,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Hatch called Obama’s action an “attack on an entire way of life” and an “astonishing and egregious abuse of executive power.”
Hatch said he will meet with Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., who Trump wants to lead the Department of the Interior, to discuss administratively reversing Obama’s action.
Chaffetz also vowed to act.
“We look forward to working with President-elect Trump to follow through on his commitment to repeal midnight regulations. We will work to repeal this top-down decision and replace it with one that garners local support and creates a balanced, win-win solution,” he said in a statement.
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