After President Barack Obama designated a 500,000-plus national monument in southern New Mexico this week, the president said he’s not done exercising his authority, although Gov. Gary Herbert said he doesn’t expect a monument designation in Utah without consultation with state leaders.
Several monuments have been proposed in the state, but there is no indication Obama will act to preserve the areas.
“It would cause me concern if he used the same approach that President Clinton did with the [Grand Staircase-Escalante National] monument, where we were all blindsided and nobody knew about it, in fact, until the day of the announcement,” Herbert said Thursday during his monthly KUED news conference.
“That would bother me if that’s the approach President Obama is going to take,” the governor said. “I would hope that he’s not and I expect that he’s not.”
Herbert said Obama had promised that, if Congress won’t act, he would take executive action and Herbert agreed that Congress should be acting on land issues.
He pointed to a series of proposed land exchanges being worked on by Rep. Rob Bishop as an example of ways Congress could take positive steps to work with states and protect resources.
However, Herbert said the situation in New Mexico — where Obama used the Antiquities Act to create the 500,000-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in south-central area of the state — is different than the circumstances in Utah.
“Local communities in New Mexico were asking for it,” he said. “I don’t hear any local communities in Utah asking for any special monument designation.”
One of the proposed Utah monuments does have local support, however. The Navajo Nation has pressed Congress to create the Diné Bikéyah National Conservation Area to protect the 1.9 million acres in San Juan County from development.
Other areas in Utah under consideration are Desolation Canyon in eastern Utah, Greater Canyonlands in southeastern Utah, and the San Rafael Swell in Emery County.