Washington • Sen. Mike Lee on Wednesday introduced legislation that would prevent a president from designating a national monument in Utah without the consent of Congress and the state Legislature.
The bill, which is not the first effort to exempt Utah from the Antiquities Act, comes after the Legislature passed a resolution earlier this year encouraging the state’s members of Congress to introduce legislation to ward off future monuments Utah doesn’t want.
“Rural Americans want what all Americans want: a dignified decent-paying job, a family to love and support, and a healthy community whose future is determined by local residents — not their self-styled betters thousands of miles away,” Lee said in a statement.
Currently, Alaska and Wyoming are exempt from presidential designations of national monuments.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance blasted the legislation, noting that three of Utah’s famous national parks were first preserved by presidents as national monuments.
“This legislation is just the latest short-sighted attack on the public lands that are treasured by Utahns and the American people,” said Jen Ujifusa, the group’s legislative director. “If Sen. Lee’s grim vision for Utah had been in place in the last century, national treasures like Arches, Zion and Bryce Canyon would not enjoy the protection they have today.”
Utah’s Republican leaders have attacked the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives a president unilateral power to name national monuments, since President Bill Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument in 1996. That angst was further amplified when President Barack Obama named the Bears Ears National Monument in 2016.
President Donald Trump dramatically shrank those two monuments in December. Two federal lawsuits have been filed to overturn that action.
Lee titled his legislation the Protecting Utah’s Rural Economy Act, or PURE Act.