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President promises, no surprise on Greater Canyonlands

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Posted at 8:30 PM, Sep 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-18 08:47:52-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Governor Gary Herbert came back from a trip to Washington D.C. with more than a t-shirt... he came home with a promise.

According to the Governor, President Barack Obama will not spring a surprise on the state of Utah, setting aside 1.8 million acres of BLM and Forest Service land as a national monument.

"They've promised me that that's not going to happen," said Herbert, later clarifying the promise came from Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

The limited promise still has importance substance to ranchers who feel like they've been burned before.

"We hope that they will stand by that and honor that commitment. Unfortunately we have seen that in past administrations," said Brent Tanner, executive vice president of the Utah Cattlemen's Association.

Tanner referred to 1996, when then-President Bill Clinton stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and declared a similarly-sized swath of land as Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Clinton's declaration thrilled many environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts, but it infuriated local county commissioners and other residents.

Secretary Jewell's process is contingent, said the governor. He said the Secretary wants to encourage talks spearheaded by Representative Rob Bishop called the Public Lands Initiative.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is participating in those talks.

"I think representative Bishop is sincere. I've been impressed with him, with his staff. That they are reaching out that they are trying to get input from all sides," said David Garbett, counsel for SUWA.

Garbett adds that while he hopes the Public lands Initiative works, he thinks Jewell's promise comes with an implied threat.

"If that legislation is not successful in addressing threats or if the process falls apart, then no one should be surprised with a national monument designation," said Garbett.