Now, President Obama is weighing whether and how he can leave his own permanent imprint on history by designating about 2 million acres of land, known as the Bears Ears, as a national monument.
And despite the uniformly acknowledged historical significance of the area, some people regard the conservation efforts by the White House as classic federal overreach. In the current-era conflict between Washington and rural Westerners, the idea of a Bears Ears national monument has produced warnings of a possible armed insurrection.
In a state where the federal government owns 65 percent of the land, many conservatives already resent existing restrictions because they bar development that could generate additional revenue. Out-of-state militias came to San Juan County two years ago, when Commissioner Phil Lyman helped lead an all-terrain-vehicle protest ride through a canyon the Bureau of Land Management had closed to motorized traffic in 2007. Lyman is appealing the 10-day jail sentence he received in connection with the protest, and he argues that his case shows how BLM officials place the priorities of environmentalists over those of local residents.
“I would hope that my fellow Utahans would not use violence, but there are some deeply held positions that cannot just be ignored,” Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, the veteran Republican lawmaker, said in an interview.Well, that's certainly comforting. And once again, the President clearly has the law on his side.
But some lawmakers have suggested that unilateral action by the president, under the 1906 Antiquities Act, could provoke the same sort of resistance that led to the 41-day armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon earlier this year.
“There is a lot of conflict that has escalated into being on the precipice of violence that is unnecessary and unwarranted,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who opposes the designation.
Obama has approached the designation of national monuments as a way to bolster the country’s defenses against climate change and as a way to make the national narrative more inclusive, in addition to his obligation to safeguard the country’s national treasures.
Please note that Utah Republicans aren't saying that the President doesn't have the authority to do this, note that they are saying if he does designate the national monument that he will provoke possibly deadly violence and it will be his fault.
President Obama is attempting to protect Native American culture (and more than any other president in memory he has done quite a bit in that regard) as well as land vulnerable to climate change and the response from the "loyal opposition" is "Oh, well you can do that but *I* wouldn't, you're likely to get somebody shot."
Can Republicans not be awful, even for a moment?