Obama designates Utah, Nevada monuments
Bears Ears is in Four Corners region; Gold Butte is near Las Vegas
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.