Utah legislature passes resolution opposing Obama monument plans

Posted at 7:44 PM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 23:24:59-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah State Legislature voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution opposing the possible creation of a national monument in the Four Corners area.

The House voted 64-10 and the Senate voted 23-5 to back the resolution, which demands that President Obama consult with Utah leaders before making any designation of a Bears Ears National Monument under the Antiquities Act.

Governor Gary Herbert is expected to sign the non-binding resolution, a spokeswoman told FOX 13 on Wednesday night.

The resolution was tacked on to a special session that restored nearly $5 million in education funding cuts, but generated the most debate. Votes fell along party lines, with Democrats speaking in favor of Bears Ears National Monument.

"This is lunacy!" Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, told his Senate colleagues of the resolution.

In the House, lawmakers debated adding words declaring that the president had an "alleged authority" to create national monuments.

"This is an alleged right of the president," Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said.

Before lawmakers met in special session, about 200 supporters of Bears Ears becoming a national monument rallied in the rotunda. Mark Maryboy, a former San Juan County Commissioner and member of the Navajo Nation, held up a letter from the tribe declaring its support for a national monument.

"The tribes are united and community is united," he said to cheers.

Maryboy claimed other tribes were also lining up in support of Bears Ears National Monument. But lawmakers said not everyone was on board, pointing out tribal council members and residents who opposed it.

The White House has not said if President Obama will declare the Bears Ears area a national monument, but Rep. Noel said it could be as much as 1.9 million acres in size and restrict what people can do on the land.

"Major, major takeover of the West, takeover of our ability to manage our own lands," he said. "Just a total land grab!"

Rep. Noel told FOX 13 he has been informed by Interior Department officials that President Obama could declare as many as three national monuments in Utah: Greater Canyonlands (encompassing Arches and Canyonlands national parks), the San Rafael Swell area, and Bears Ears.

"They're going to do it," Rep. Noel said. "There's no question."