U.S. Sen. Lee crafts bill to limit president's ability to create monuments in Utah

Thursday , July 12, 2018 - 5:00 AM

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaking at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Feb. 22, 2018.

RICK BOWMER/Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaking at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Feb. 22, 2018.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mike Lee has introduced legislation to limit the ability of the president to expand a national monument in Utah, a hot issue in the state stemming from the creation of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

The measure, the Protect Utah’s Rural Economy Act, would “protect Utah from future abuses under the Antiquities Act” by prohibiting a president from establishing or expanding a national monument unless authorized by U.S. and Utah lawmakers, Lee said in a statement Wednesday. The Republican lawmaker touted the proposal as a mechanism to give rural communities in Utah more say in land management and a means to foster economic growth.

RELATED: Trump signs proclamation to scale back 2 national monuments

“Rural Americans want what all Americans want — a dignified, decent-paying job, a family to love and support and a healthy community whose future is determined by local residents, not their self-styled betters thousands of miles away,” Lee said. Alaska and Wyoming have the sort of protections Lee seeks in his legislation, he said.

President Barack Obama created Bears Ears in 2016 while President Bill Clinton designated Grand Staircase-Escalante in 1996. The decisions generated backlash from some critics who deemed the action heavy-handed federal meddling that limits the ability of Utahns to determine how to manage land. Backers touted the designations as good environmental stewardship.

President Donald Trump, siding with the critics, reduced the size of the two monuments last year, arguing that Utah land shouldn’t be controlled by the feds.

The Antiquities Act, which authorizes the president to create national monuments, aims to protect sites of historic and archeological importance. Lee’s statement said it has “become a weapon urban elites use against hard-working rural Americans.”

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