This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah lawmakers took a first step Friday to formally ask President Donald Trump to erase the new Bears Ears National Monument and also to rescind large sections of the 20-year-old Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The House Rules Committee approved separate resolutions, HCR11 and HCR12, to proceed for floor debate with only the two Democrats on the committee opposing them.
The Rules Committee rarely holds hearings on legislation, and usually just assigns bills to other committees. But its chairman is Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, whose district includes the national monuments, and he is a leading opponent of them. To show the importance lawmakers give the Bears Ears resolution, House Speaker Greg Hughes is sponsoring it even though speakers traditionally sponsor few bills.
"Utah has become the ATM for payback for special interests" by Democratic presidents, Hughes said, adding the monument designations ignored the desires of most local residents.
Barack Obama created the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears monument last month. Bill Clinton created the 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase monument in 1996.
Hughes said Utah's congressional delegation requested the Bears Ears resolution to show local leaders are on the same page in seeking reversal of the Bears Ears monument.
The only person to speak against the Bears Ears resolution was Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay. She said the movement for it came from Utah Navajos and Utes, and that some polls show most Utahns favor it and came largely because legislation on protecting the area stalled in Congress. "There is another side of the story," she said.
Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock had a very different take and denounced the Grand Staircase monument as "a curse to a county, it really is. … Anyone who says this has been good for Escalante, go talk to the families there."
He said the monument has made it difficult for farmers, ranchers and others to make a living because of land restrictions, shown by plummeting school enrollment. Local business leaders in Escalante have attributed the enrollment drop to other factors unrelated to the monument.