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National

Obama Designates 2 New Monuments; Critics Want Trump To Undo It

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And creating new national monuments - it's often controversial. Many Americans love the idea of protecting more land. But loggers, ranchers and others say this comes with a cost. Yesterday, President Obama created two new national monuments. One is just east of Las Vegas. It's called Gold Butte. And the other is Bears Ears in southeastern Utah. From member station KUER in Salt Lake City, here's Judy Fahys.

JUDY FAHYS, BYLINE: In a statement yesterday, the president called cultural treasures the reason for creating the two monuments. Rock art, archaeological sites and land sacred to Native American tribes are included at both Bears Ears and Gold Butte. Obama said he wants to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes.

REGINA LOPEZ-WHITESKUNK: There is so much to learn from the land.

FAHYS: Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk is a Ute tribal leader who pressed the Obama administration to use the Antiquities Act to create the Bears Ears monument. She's been part of a coalition of tribes pushing for protection of the 1.3 million-acre site.

LOPEZ-WHITESKUNK: There's so much that we yet to prepare our next seven generations for in being able to continue to live in unison with the land.

FAHYS: Bears Ears will be the first national monument to be co-managed by the federal government and tribes. Conservation groups are also applauding the designation. Drilling and mining aren't allowed on national monuments. But many locals and elected officials in Utah are denouncing the move and vow to derail it. They say it will restrict how they use the land for ranching, for logging and other forms of economic development. Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop has proposed legislation that would have blocked Bears Ears and future monuments.

ROB BISHOP: This is a political statement in a gotcha moment by a president as he's leaving the White House to try and pay back whomever he thinks are special interest groups that are supporting him.

FAHYS: Opponents of Bears Ears have already spoken to the incoming Trump administration about reversing the monument designation, although past repeal attempts have failed. The 300,000-acre Gold Butte monument in Nevada could prove just as controversial. It's located along the border with Arizona, where federal agencies and locals have clashed before over land management. Opponents of these designations say they want Congress, not the president, to have the authority to name monuments.

For NPR News, I'm Judy Fahys in Salt Lake City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.