Obama des­ig­nates Utah, Ne­vada mon­u­ments

Bears Ears is in Four Cor­ners re­gion; Gold Butte is near Las Ve­gas

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Brady McCombs

salt lake city» Pres­i­dent Barack Obama des­ig­nated two na­tional mon­u­ments Wed­nes­day at sites in Utah and Ne­vada that have be­come key flash­points over use of pub­lic land in the West, mark­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s lat­est move to pro­tect en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive ar­eas in its fi­nal days.

The Bears Ears Na­tional Mon­u­ment in Utah will cover 1.35 mil­lion acres in the Four Cor­ners re­gion, the White House said. In a vic­tory for Amer­i­can In­dian tribes and con­ser­va­tion­ists, the des­ig­na­tion pro­tects land that is con­sid­ered sa­cred and is home to an es­ti­mated 100,000 ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites, in­clud­ing an­cient cliff dwellings.

It’s a blow for state Repub­li­can lead­ers and many ru­ral res­i­dents who fear it will add another layer of un­nec­es­sary fed­eral con­trol and close the area to en­ergy de­vel­op­ment and recre­ation, a com­mon re­frain in the bat­tle over use of the Amer­i­can West’s vast open spa­ces.

In Ne­vada, a 300,000-acre Gold Butte Na­tional Mon­u­ment out­side Las Ve­gas would pro­tect a scenic and eco­log­i­cally frag­ile area near where rancher Cliven Bundy led an armed stand­off with govern­ment agents in 2014. It in­cludes rock art, ar­ti­facts, rare fos­sils and re­cently dis­cov­ered di­nosaur tracks.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has rushed to safe­guard vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas be­fore Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion. It has blocked new min­ing claims out­side Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park and new oil drilling in the Arc­tic Ocean. Obama’s cre­ation and ex­pan­sion of mon­u­ments cov­ers more acreage than any other pres­i­dent.

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