Recently the state of Utah filed a lawsuit that challenges the Biden administration’s designation of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments to their original size. The lawsuit was filed by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes but includes a coalition of Republican Utah politicians, including Sen. Mitt Romney.
For youth concerned about the climate and conservationists alike, this constitutes a major blow to our state’s role in mitigating climate change. As explained in a letter to The Public Forum by Stephen Trimble, advocating for reversing the institution of the monuments’ original size by filing this lawsuit is the exact opposite of science motivated belief.
We know that the protection of our public lands and wilderness have incredible benefits in curbing our carbon emissions while also mitigating the inevitable effects of climate change. Plus, the benefits it offers to Utah’s growing eco-tourism economy cannot be understated. One quarter of all fossil fuels combusted in the U.S. is derived from public lands. If the state and our representatives protect and advocate for the protection of the monuments to stay their current size it can help drive this number down and help our transition away from fossil fuels. This transition is already taking place (and must take place for our planet’s survival).
Additionally, the monuments and other efforts to preserve large portions of our public lands contribute to our necessary climate mitigation strategies for natural carbon sequestration and wildlife corridors.
So how can this be consistent with the stated goals of the coalition of Utah politicians who back this lawsuit? Romney has stated that his three greatest fears and priorities as a senator representing Utah and the interests of this nation are debt, China and climate change. If climate change is one of the senator’s greatest concerns, then how can he be against the natural solution of public land protection?
Romney has stated that addressing the effects of climate change on the Great Salt Lake will cost billions of dollars but natural solution mitigation strategies like public land protection is a low hanging fruit opportunity for climate action. How can Utah be a champion for the environment nationwide, when it’s unable to address simple solutions at home?
Romney occupies a critical position on the Climate Solutions Caucus in the Senate, but his office continues to take action against protecting our remaining natural places which is extremely disappointing to climate advocates. His leadership is desperately needed and our future needs more than money thrown at far fetched solutions for mitigation like a pipeline from the ocean.
The decision to support this lawsuit advocating for less land protection by Romney is in direct opposition to climate related goals. Youth and those concerned about the future are disheartened by the dismissal of natural solutions that mitigate the effects of climate change.
It’s crucial that the senator continues to lead the fight against climate change among the Republican Party, but this can’t be done if public lands in Utah continue to be neglected. Utahns and the nation deserve a healthy future and a senator that fights for it on all fronts.
Elias Johnson is an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University studying biodiversity and conservation. He has worked with multiple environmental advocacy groups in the state. He enjoys spending his time in Utah’s beautiful natural places.
Andie Madsen is from Sandy and currently is finishing up at Columbia University. She has been involved in the Salt Lake environmental activist scene the last few years and is excited to start her career there working on our state’s climate transition.