The State Capitol became a stage Monday for Utahns to call on President Barack Obama -- some asking him to declare a Bears Ears National Monument and others pledging to fight it.
Their back-to-back news conferences took place as rumors heat up that the President will declare a monument in southeastern Utah this week.
Native American leaders addressed a standing-room only crowd filled with “Protect Bears Ears” posters.
“In the past, we’ve sat back and idly not commented,” said Ute tribal leader, Shaun Chapoose. “Well, I’m here to tell you we’re here to comment now. We’re here to fight. We’re here to stand if we need to. Not because we want to but because we have no choice.”
Supporters are asking Obama to give Native Americans a stronger voice over local lands and to protect archaeological resources with a national monument.
But opponents say it would undermine local control and tribal traditions. They jammed into the opulent Gold Room to hear from elected leaders like Utah Senator Mike Lee.
“We’d use every tool in our arsenal to undo what you’d be doing by designating this monument by working with the new Congress in the new year and the new administration to undo that,” he said, emphasizing in comments directed to the President that a Bears Ears National Monument would be the wrong way to protect the land and the people.
“Mr. President, we beg of you: Don’t do this.”
In a month, Republicans will control the White House, the Senate and the House in Washington.