Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Thursday blasted President Obama for his new national monument designation in his home state, calling Obama’s move “terribly arrogant.”
“It’s just terribly arrogant, he unilaterally — he is taking 1.35 million acres, that’s more land than there is in the entire state of Delaware, and re-designating it as a national monument,” Chaffetz said in an interview with Fox News.
“There is not a single … elected official that represents that area that’s in favor of it, but the president did it anyway,” he added.
Many supporters of Obama’s move to grant the national monument designation at Bears Ears in San Juan County have cited the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows the president to create federal monuments to protect natural resources or cultural artifacts without congressional approval.
Obama’s decision to create the national monuments means that the area, that contains some Native American artifacts, will be protected from energy drilling in the future.
Chaffetz, however, said that the president’s move does not necessarily fall under the Antiquities Act which he says historically applies to “small designations.”
“The Antiquities Act in the early 1900s was put in place to save small areas, it actually says ‘small designations.’ You can take hundreds of acres and go protect Bears Ears and a couple of other cites that are probably worthy of protection but 1.35 million acres — are you kidding me?” Chaffetz said.
Chaffetz also said he is “absolutely” planning to fight the decision.
“There is no choice. They just unilaterally did this,” he said. “After two years, Congressman Rob Bishop [R-Utah] and I worked, tried to come up with a bipartisan solution, never did the president ever grant us a meeting, even after we as a delegation asked for it back in April, and never did he ever discuss this.”
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said Thursday he is already preparing a lawsuit to combat the designation.
In his statement on Wednesday, the lawmaker said that president’s decision disregarded “years of painstaking negotiations with a diverse coalition” that provided a “comprehensive bipartisan solution.”
“Instead, the president’s midnight monument cherry picked provisions of the Public Lands Initiative and disregarded the economic development and multi-use provisions necessary for a balanced compromise,” Chaffetz added.
In addition to the Bear Ears Buttes, Obama also designated 300,000 acres in Nevada surrounding the Gold Butte as a national monument.