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Obama's Newly Designated National Monuments Upset Some Lawmakers


Yesterday, President Obama created two new national monuments in Utah and Nevada. They total more than a million and a half acres. The larger of the two is called Bears Ears in Utah. While Native American tribes in that state had been calling for some kind of official protection of Bears Ears, Utah Republicans are furious. That includes Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who says the president's action was not the solution.

GARY HERBERT: It in fact does not give the Native Americans what they would like to have with the ability to have co-management of the area. It in fact comes shy of doing the things that need to be done for that area.

SHAPIRO: And yet these are sacred ancient sites for the Indian tribes that are pushing for this to be a national monument. I suppose one question is, should this be up to a popular vote, or should it be up to the groups that have real heritage, religious, personal, historical stake in that land?

HERBERT: We have a uniqueness there in that area where a county commissioner has to be a Native American Navajo that's been sent in by Congress. And Commissioner Benally, who's that representative, is opposed to the national monument. So at best, the Indians are divided. And most of the people...

SHAPIRO: Well, the president of the Navajo Nation put out a statement saying they'd worked closely with the White House and strongly support this.

HERBERT: I - again, I understand what they're putting out for PR purposes, but I'm here to tell you those people inside Utah which ought to have some consideration have been ignored. It's not a matter of, do we want to have protection? It's how we're going to provide the vehicle of protection. This is 1.35 million acres. Delaware's 1.6 million. This is about the size of Delaware.

SHAPIRO: I hear you saying that everybody wants some sort of protection. So the question is, now that the federal government has done this, why do you think it's a good idea rather than settling for what you've got?

HERBERT: 'Cause I think we can have a better vehicle as far as providing protections which will allow the access that needs to be done. Over two-thirds of Utah is owned and controlled by the federal government. It impacts how we do things here in Utah. It's our backyard. We've created 43 state parks ourselves, so we have some reverence for the land.

We still have the residual animus from when Bill Clinton came in in really a very clandestine - never gave us any notification, any discussion - and declared the Grand Staircase-Escalante. Our governor found out about it by reading it in The New York Times. So there's a lot of distrust.

And now we have this - now a continuation of where it feels like you're doing it to us, not doing it with us. Why did not the president and his administration work with Congressman Bishop and Congressman Chaffetz and say, let us help you? It's not the use of the Antiquities Act that's the problem. It's what seems to be a continued escalating abuse of the Antiquities Act.

President Obama - 25 national monuments he's declared. He's enhanced four others. He may do some even more. He'll do more national monument declarations than any president by far in history. And it's just a way to circumvent the people. It's a way to circumvent the Congress. And I don't think that's really the American way - to have one person say, hey, I don't care what other people think about this; the only opinion that matters is my opinion.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about your efforts to overturn this designation. I understand you're going to file a lawsuit.

HERBERT: There are three ways to in fact make modification and improvement - one, by executive action, which you've already seen. The question is, can the Trump administration in fact reverse it, repeal it, modify it? There certainly is precedence for shrinking the size of the footprint. Do you know, the Antiquities Act says that you should use the smallest amount of area possible to manage the resources? And we see presidents now going the reverse.

SHAPIRO: So executive action is one approach. What are the other two?

HERBERT: Well, legislatively, which is what we've been talking about all along, Congress - legislative forces compromise. That's where we take into consideration all the issues out there. And the third one of course would be in fact if we had litigation. And certainly there's an argument that they've gone way beyond the scope of the 1906 Antiquities Act, and therefore the court could make some adjustments, overturn it as maybe a fraudulent action. The national monument is not the best vehicle to get that done.

SHAPIRO: Utah Governor Gary Herbert, thank you for joining us.

HERBERT: Thank you. Great to be with you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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