When President Donald Trump came to Utah in December, he reorganized the boundaries of two national monuments in Utah. The areas of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante now contain five smaller national monuments.
On Tuesday, The House Committee of Natural Resources held a hearing for H.R. 4532 involving two of those monuments in the Bears Ears area of Utah.
The Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act is sponsored by Republican Rep. John Curtis from Utah’s 3rd congressional district. The act would create the first Tribally co-managed national monument in the nation.
The committee’s chair, Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, is a co-sponsor of the bill. He wants congress and tribal nations to work together on a management plan.
“What we are talking about is how do we empower people who actually have a close tie, an ancestral tie, a family tie, to be able to make real decisions. Not mock decisions but real decisions,” Bishop said.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert testified before the committee and said because the area is on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, how to manage the land needs to be handled legislatively.
“These are lands owned not by Utahns only and not by the Navajos only or other native tribes, these are owned by all Americans," Herbert said. "You, the Congress, are responsible for how we in fact manage those lands through the interior department and through the BLM. The only way we can resolved this to the optimal benefit are respecting the differences of opinions and come together with resolution is a legislative fix. Anything else will continue to have us argue, fight, court and never get resolution to this issue. So the challenge for this body and the rest of your colleagues is to find a legislative solution getting input from all the stake holders and then come up with a legislation that will solve the issue.”
The bill was met with resistance from tribal leaders. Shaun Chapoose, an elected member of the Ute Tribal Business Committee, also testified. He was asked if the bill would improve government-to-government consultation with the five tribal nations in the Bears Ears area.
“No, it won’t," Chapoose said. "All this is going to do is divide us further and what’s pretty interesting in this, we know there’s a challenge in court … but to push us through basically shuts the door on the legal process. So this isn’t going to help nobody. If anything, I guess we are going to draw our lines and we are going to start pushing harder and harder.”
Representatives from another native tribe organization, Utah Dine Bikeyah said "the bill would not only codify President Trump’s illegal evisceration of Bears Ears National Monument but also delegate management of the monument to local officials, while ignoring tribal sovereignty."
The congressional hearing for H. R. 4532 continues into Wednesday.