Utah Senators passed a controversial resolution Friday that asks President Donald Trump to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument. The nonbinding resolution lacks the force of law, but legislators wanted to make an official statement about Utah’s newest national monument.
And, making that statement was so important, that the Legislature’s top leaders led the cause. Sponsor House Speaker Greg Hughes guided to bill to House passage on Tuesday, 60-14. On Friday, Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser presented the resolution to fellow senators from the floor rather than his usual spot at the head of the chamber. It’s rare for he or the Speaker to personally sponsor and manage bills.
“I think the voice of the people needs to weigh in on these decisions,” he said, “and that’s the Congress of the United States.”
Several Republicans joined Neiderhauser in denouncing the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County. They said Democratic President Barack Obama ignored the wishes of Utah officials and San Juan County residents by creating it, and they want a do-over their way.
But Democrats questioned whose will is being forced on others. Sen. Gene Davis, D- Salt Lake City, pointed out that the idea originated with the five Native American tribes with roots at Bears Ears.
“That’s what those tribes and those citizens down there in southeastern Utah asked for -- they asked for that,” Davis said. “They petitioned the federal government to have that designation done.”
The Senate vote was 22–6, with Republican Sen. Brian Shiozawa of Cottonwood Heights joining the five Democrats in opposing the HCR11.
Republican Governor Gary Herbert, also a critic of the monument, is expected to sign the resolution by early next week. That means it will be ready to give to Interior Secretary nominee Ryan Zinke, who’s said he’ll visit Utah once he’s confirmed by the U.S. Senate.