Utah leaders to President Obama: No new national monument

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(ABC4 Utah) – Utah’s governor and members of our congressional delegation are speaking out about rumors of a surprise designation for the Bears Ears area.

Governor, Gary Herbert teamed up with Representatives, Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz to oppose a unilateral designation.

They insist there’s a better way.

“It’s a gamble for this administration to go down this path, it’s not wise for them to do it and it’s just lousy public policy,” said Bishop, (R) Utah.

Bishop and Chaffetz joined Herbert at his monthly news conference for the next round in the battle over Bears Ears.

Some in Washington are saying the president has made a decision and could designate the area a national monument next week.

The governor says he heard otherwise in a conversation with the President’s Chief of Staff earlier this week.

“The answer to me was no, we have not made the decision and your thoughts are being considered. I hope that’s the case,” said Herbert, (R) Utah.

Chaffetz isn’t so sure. He says he’s worried a midnight monument will happen.

“We’re down to the final hours of this administration, and if they haven’t been able to get it done, and they haven’t been able to suggest a solution to this, I find it hard to believe at this point they don’t know,” said Chaffetz, (R) Utah.

They say the long standing dispute should be resolved through a combined, legislative effort like the Public Lands Initiative.

One that brings all parties to the table and takes local opinion into consideration.

“We’ve always hoped that the administration, going back to our meeting in April would offer a suggestion on the changes they would like to see in order to get to a point that they would actually support the legislation. That was the hope, and to this date that has still never happened,” said Chaffetz.

The Center for Western Priorities says congress failed to get legislation passed.

In a statement the group says: “Protection for Bears Ears is eight decades overdue. The Antiquities Act was written precisely for cases like this. It is now incumbent on President Obama to create a Bears Ears National Monument before he leaves office.”

Bishop says if that happens congress will use every tool possible to reverse it.

He’s also confident the new administration can and will do the same.

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