This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
As has been said: "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it."
So on April 24, Sen. Orrin Hatch stood before the U.S. Senate and lied about the collaborative process that led to the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument.
Hatch said, "As evidence of his disdain, President Obama issued this declaration with no open debate, no public hearing and no vote in Congress."
I personally know that's not true.
On July 16, 2016, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, along with other federal officials, visited Utah to hold a hearing about the future of the area that would become Bears Ears National Monument. The trip ended with a public hearing in the remote town of Bluff, Utah.
I attended that hearing, along with almost 2,000 others, in the sweltering heat of the Bluff Community Center. Speakers included a representative from Gov. Gary Herbert's office, Native Americans from the nearby Ute and Navajo reservations, officials from San Juan County, residents from nearby towns and citizens from cities hundreds of miles away.
This meeting was only one day in three years' worth of work, led by Jewell, to find the best way to protect the area that is now Bears Ears National Monument.
Ironically, these documents were requested from the Department of Interior by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a critic of Bears Ears who sought evidence that the monument designation was a one-sided sneak attack. Actually, the official papers show the opposite.
In one email, Herbert's office praises Jewell saying: "I have to compliment you on a wonderful trip. Your team orchestrated a comprehensive, balanced, well-run and effective trip of southeast Utah. I also have to compliment you on the listening session on Saturday (in Bluff) ... it went off brilliantly. Kudos to you and your team!"
Another email shows the willingness of the Interior Department to work with Chaffetz and Rep. Rob Bishop on their Public Lands Initiative. It states: "the Interior Department would like the opportunity to work with (PLI) bill sponsors (Bishop and Chaffetz) ... to improve manageability and ensure protection of natural, cultural and other resources."
The proposed monument's boundaries were pared down by the Obama administration so that the monument boundaries nearly mirror those of Bishop and Chaffetz's Public Lands Initiative. That fact alone should attest to the collaboration between the federal government and Utah. But now, we have the thousands of Interior Department documents that show the extent to which the Interior Department worked with Utah officials.
In this day of "alternative facts," the truth gets buried. But as shown in the trove of documents released by the Interior Department, we know that the true story of the birth of Bears Ears National Monument is one of transparency and professional respect between the Obama administration and Utah officials the Utah delegation and the governor's staff.
The new Bears Ears National Monument stands as a testimony to the collaboration between diverse groups, from an unprecedented coalition of Native American tribes to dedicated government employees. If the monument is reduced or rescinded because of lies broadcast by Hatch and the Utah delegation, the real losers will be the American people especially Native Americans to whom this region is more than a place to seek beauty and solitude. It's a place of ancestral connection and continuity. For it to be destroyed by deceitful politicians would be a heartbreaking travesty.
Harry Holland is a husband, father, small business owner and environmentalist who lives in southern Utah, a couple of hours away from Bears Ears.