Two national monuments have been delegated for Obama in Utah and Nevada to try to protect the president’s environmental efforts; however some believe this was done to prevent Trump from doing specific things during his term. The first monument will be The Bears Ears National Monument in the Four Corners region in Utah, covering 1.35 million acres. This monument is viewed as a triumph for Native American tribes and environmentalists who believe the territory is sacred; however this triggered hostility among Republicans. Senator Mike Lee, a Republican representing Utah, stated, “This arrogant act by a lame duck president will not stand.”
In addition to, there will be a placement of a 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument not far from Las Vegas, guarding a delicate area that holds organic remains, artifacts, and rock art. Obama stated, “Today’s actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes.” Democrats, like Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, believes, “President Obama is a courageous man. I could not be more grateful to him and his team for working with me to make this happen, and for everything he has done to protect public lands in Nevada. By designating Gold Butte a national monument, President Obama has shown once again why he is one of greatest environmental presidents in American history.” Republicans, all across the board, disagree heavily.
Republicans in Utah believe that these monuments will only add further federal control and would demand a new energy development. Republicans are not against the idea of conservation; however they believe it interferes with energy development and the availability of the area for citizens to camp, hike, etc. Many, like Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, believe that Obama has violated a bipartisan compromise that was in process. He said, “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.” Utah Attorney General, Sean Reyes, believes that Obama is not paying attention to the voices of many people, claiming that his office is preparing a lawsuit over this situation. He expressed, “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.” On the other hand, some are extremely grateful and overjoyed by Obama’s decision. Russel Begaye, Navajo Nation President, spoke on behalf of Native American groups and expressed how happy they were. He informed, “We have always looked to Bears Ears as a place of refuge. The rocks, the winds, the land — they are living, breathing things that deserve timely and lasting protection.”
Many believe this is one of Obama’s last attempts to try and perfect his legacy before Trump’s inauguration. Trump has spoke about his opposition to Obama’s environmental plans and has even shown his yearning to remove many of the regulations. Very recently, Obama has been making major decisions like making the Arctic Ocean and some of the Atlantic Ocean unavailable for oil and gas leases in the future. Also, mining outside of Yellowstone National Park has been blocked. The monuments were put into motion by executive action; however it may take Congress to undo it. The White House Council on Environmental Quality informed the press that the president is allowed to create monuments; however he cannot undo them. Representative Chaffetz looks forward to undoing these monuments by stating, “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.”