Communities in Central, Southern Utah crushed under weight of national monuments

August 18, 2016

As published by Utah’s U.S. Senator, Mike Lee

Voices of Central and Southern Utah

Utahns have been shut out of public meetings, and environmental groups have bussed in out of state activists under the guise of representing local perspectives.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to central and southern Utah to meet with the people of Carbon, Emery, Grand, Juab, Sanpete, San Juan, Sevier, and Wayne counties.

Like most who visit central and southern Utah, I am continually awed by the natural beauty that is found here. The landscape and cultures here add immense beauty and diversity to the state of Utah. What a privilege it is for me to represent the people of this great state, and to call Utah my home.

Looking west on County Road 803 in Emery County, Utah

Every year, many millions of visitors trek to Utah to experience this state’s natural wonders. However, I fear something is often overlooked by those who visit Utah’s rural areas: People live here. These beautiful places aren’t empty spaces, many thousands of Utahns depend on this land for survival.
During my visit to central and southern Utah, I was able to meet with a diverse array of local Utahns who live and work in our state’s rural spaces. Without question, these Utahns I met with are intimately aware of the value of our public lands and the need to preserve them for future generations.
The following photos show some of the people and places I visited during my visit to central and Southern Utah.

The Bears Ears

During my time in southern Utah I had the opportunity to visit the Bears Ears region and hike to the top of one of the “Bears Ears”. I was joined on the hike by members of the Blue Mountain Diné, a group of San Juan County Navajo that work on behalf of local Navajo that live outside of the reservation. They have substantive and legitimate concerns that greater federal and tribal control of the Bears Ears region will dramatically change their way of life.

Members of the Blue Mountain Diné have started a petition to the White House to ask the president to not go through with this designation. After spending the week meeting with Utahns across the state, I am convinced that local support for this proposed monument is practically non-existent. I hope you will add your voice to the thousands of Utahns and San Juan County Navajo that have asked the president to leave their land and their way of life alone.
San Juan County is small and sparsely populated. Those who support the monument have relied on out-of-state support to create a narrative that there is any level of support for this monument designation. While we welcome all who want to come and experience our great state, the voices of those who have lived off this land for generations should be prioritized over those who come to visit for a weekend.

The trailhead leading to the top of one of the “bear’s ears”

Everything seen in this photo (and much, much more) would become restricted by the Obama Administration’s proposed national monument

You can support the local residents of San Juan County and add your voice to the petition to the White House to tell the president to keep the Bears Ears maintained, loved, and managed on a local level. I know that if everyone who sees this also shares it with their friends and family that we can reach millions of people. I also know the citizens of San Juan County will be deeply grateful for your support in this effort.

US Senate Field Hearing on the proposed Bears Ears National Monument

On July 27, I hosted a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Field Hearing at San Juan High School in Blanding, Utah. Approximately 1000 local residents attended this hearing to lend their voice to this important discussion.
In response to this hearing, those supporting the Obama Administration in creating a national monument in San Juan County would have you believe two things: one, that local Native Americans hold near-universal support for the creation of a national monument; and two, that the Senate Field Hearing I chaired in San Juan County was restricted in attendance to only those who stand in opposition to the monument.
But both of those assertions are simply not true.

A young speaker shares her perspective on how the proposed monument would damage her community
The vast majority of Native Americans in San Juan County stand against the formation of a national monument on their ancestral land. While many out-of-state tribes have expressed support for the monument, the Blue Mountain Diné and the Kayelli Diné—the two San Juan County tribes who’s ancestral land will be most impacted by the monument—are strongly opposed to Bears Ears being declared a national monument.
In an effort to include varied perspectives in the hearing, repeated and multiple invitations were made to Secretary Sally Jewell and other representatives from the U.S. Department of the Interior to attend the hearing. But none of them showed up. We also invited members of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, who committed to attend. But they withdrew their participation in the days just prior to the hearing.
I listened to the people of San Juan County and the verdict is clear: the people who live near Bears Ears do not want Washington, DC to create a Bears Ears monument. We hope that the current administration will take this opportunity to choose a path of cooperation and consensus, and not let outside interest groups force their preferences on the people that live here.

San Juan County residents—representing various cultural backgrounds—showed near-universal opposition to the proposed national monument

Employees participate in a Q&A with Sen. Lee at the Sufco Mine in Huntington, Utah


Utah’s Coal Industry

During my time in Carbon and Emery counties, I had the privilege of visiting the Hunter Plan Plant and the Sufco Mine, two of the many sites in our state where hardworking Utahns know all too well the hardships created by regulatory overreach from Washington, D.C.
Currently, the Hunter Plant is being forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to comply with misguided regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while the Sufco mine continues to wait for the Bureau of Land Management to approve the Greens Hollow coal lease.
The federal bureaucracy’s relentless and aggressive war on coal can only mean one thing: the Obama Administration wants to dismantle Utah’s electricity sector and has no concern for the human consequences. Since 2008, the coal industry has taken a beating in Utah. Many thousands of workers have lost employment, and entire communities are now at risk of being shuttered.
But those impacted by the Obama Administration’s “war on coal” aren’t narrowly limited to those who work in extraction and processing — it hurts entire communities. It hurts restaurants and schools, small businesses and family farms. It hurts agriculture, transportation, education, recreation, and construction.
As Utah communities collectively shoulder the burden brought on by oppressive federal regulations, no one is left unharmed.


For my entire life I have benefited from coal-fired electricity. Whenever I flip on a light switch, the lights turn on. That is because coal provides Utah with about three-fourths of its electricity. Coal is affordable, reliable, and cleaner than ever. Yet for decades, and increasingly under President Obama, federal regulators, like those at the EPA, have imposed one regulation after another on America’s coal country, in Utah and across the nation.
In the short-term, I will work harder than ever to ensure that any government funding bills that come up in the Senate include provisions to restrict the implementation of harmful regulations. And in the long term, I will work to rein in unaccountable federal regulators by fighting to return lawmaking power to Congress.

Sen. Lee observing the power generation process at the Hunter Plant in Huntington, Utah

The Voices of Central and Southern Utah

My visit to Carbon, Emery, Grand, Juab, Sanpete, San Juan, Sevier, and Wayne counties was a great opportunity for me to hear directly from the people of central and southern Utah. I appreciate the many communities, small businesses, organizations, and people that helped make my visit a success.
The conversations I had with local Utahns during my trip had a clear and common thread: that overreach by executive branch agencies and oppressive federal regulations are destroying Utah’s rural communities.
Unfortunately, the Utahns most impacted by oppressive federal agencies and regulations — those who have the most skin in the game — are having their voices silenced during this critical time. On key issues such as public land management and energy production, the Obama Administration has given only token consideration to the voice of local Utahns, while prioritizing the voice of out of state interest groups and activists.
Utahns have been shut out of public meetings, and environmental groups have bussed in out of state activists under the guise of representing local perspectives.
This should not be happening. In Utah, our communities are just as precious of a resource as our beautiful landscapes, and these communities also deserve to be protected. I will continue to fight for local Utahns on these issues and prioritize their voice in these important discussions.

Reposted by 8/18/16

  1. Chris Cavan

    I propose that we create a national monument in the southern half of Cook County, Illinois. This is the president’s home turf, so he shouldn’t mind if a few (hundred thousand) people are inconvenienced. We haven’t had many national monuments created that far east, so it would be closer to populated centers like Chicago, and more people could visit it, in a non-impact way, of course. We can probably get quite a few Fox and HoChunk peoples to weigh in on the proposal, of course.

  2. Joe Bundura

    This land belongs to the people of Utah. If Changes are to be made, it should be make strictly by people living in the state and area. Federal option should not be entertained until approved by first the locals effected, then by the state. If all agree then the state can petition the Federal government. Not the other way around. Always follow the money. The federal government is not concerned with it’s people, only with money. Joe Bundura Future resident of Utah

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