White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel received an earful from Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch on Friday, one day after a leaked administration memo indicated the president was considering naming two new national monuments in the state.
Hatch's office said the senator called Emanuel to complain about the potential unilateral action and Emanuel promised to provide an official response after consulting with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
"I made very clear to him that if the Administration goes down this road, it will meet absolute outrage and opposition from across the state and from me representing Utah in the United States Senate," Hatch said in a statement.
The Interior Department has said the memo is only a first look at land that may need more federal protection. The list of 14 spots includes the San Rafael Swell and Cedar Mesa areas of southern Utah.
Every member of Utah's federal delegation, along with the governor and many state lawmakers, responded to the memo with anger, reflecting on President Bill Clinton's controversial 1996 decision to create the 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The federal designation limits the uses of the land, blocking development and mineral extraction.
"Based on past experience any claim that these plans are just preliminary offers the people of Utah very little comfort," continued Hatch. "The very consideration of these designations demonstrates that Washington wants to dictate to us how our lands will be managed."