President Barack Obama designated two new national monuments on Wednesday, continuing to add to his environmental conservation legacy. Bears Ears Buttes in Utah and Gold Butte in Nevada are the latest additions to the national monuments list.
— National Parks News (@NPCA) December 29, 2016
“I am designating two new national monuments in the desert landscapes of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada to protect some of our country's most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes.”
Invoking the 1906 Antiquities Act, both desert monuments include sacred Native American sites and wildlife habitat, as well as hiking and hunting areas. Environmental groups have been calling for the better part of 2016 for Obama to designate these two sites as national monuments, and in doing so brings Obama’s national monument creation total to 29 during his two presidential terms.
This latest designation comes just over a week after Obama banned offshore drilling in parts of the Atlantic and the Arctic.
According to The New York Times, the 1.35 million acres of Bears Ears Buttes and 300,000 acres of Gold Butte bring Obama’s preserved total of lands and waters to about 553 million acres. This is by far the most of any U.S. president in history.
While Native American groups and environmentalists hail these latest designations as a win, not all were on board with this decision. In Utah, Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz told The New York Times, “The midnight move is a slap in the face to the people of Utah, attempting to silence the voices of those who will bear the heavy burden it imposes.”
There is no telling how this will play out, but it is certain that Obama is doing all he can to preserve as much land as possible before handing the keys over to president-elect Donald Drumpf in January.