December 29, 2016 — In a rebuke to the Bundy family and its supporters, President Obama yesterday designated 300,000 acres in southern Nevada as a national monument.
Obama also protected 1.35 million acres of federal land in southeastern Utah by creating the Bears Ears National Monument in an area considered sacred by Native American tribes.
The designations, Obama said in a statement, “will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes.”
Obama’s actions, taken under the authority of the 1906 Antiquities Act, bring the total amount of land and waters he has designated as national monuments to about 533 million acres, more than any other president.
The newly minted Gold Butte National Monument includes land near the ranch owned by Cliven Bundy. In 2014, Bundy led an armed standoff against federal agents who were attempting to confiscate his cattle, which he has allowed to graze on public land despite having no permit to do so.
Early this year, Bundy’s sons led an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon to protest what they claimed was heavy-handed land management by the federal government.
Republican legislators and some local residents condemned Obama’s creation of the new national monuments.
Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, pledged to try to repeal the designations. Fellow Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz said he was “outraged” by the action.
“The midnight move is a slap in the face of the people of Utah,” he said.
Each of the new national monuments contains spectacular desert landscapes, important wildlife habitat and a wealth of culturally significant sites. The Utah designation includes the creation of a Bears Ears Tribal Commission to provide input about how that national monument is managed.
“The land has always been a place of sacredness and fortitude for our people,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said. “Now it will be preserved for all future generations.”
The Bureau of Land Management will administer the Gold Butte National Monument. That agency will split management duties for the Bears Ears National Monument, which includes part of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, with the Forest Service.