President Donald Trump will visit Utah on Monday to announce his decision to reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments. I believe the president’s decision to significantly reduce the size of these two monuments signals much more than is being reported.
In June 2016, when I sat down with then-candidate Trump to discuss his campaign strategy in Utah, I started by explaining the history of Utah and its people. To his credit, he already knew this information and, at one point, remarked that he greatly appreciated and respected what Utahns have accomplished and wanted to imitate many of Utah’s successes in Washington.
You may wonder what it is that Trump appreciates and respects about Utahns. My impression from our meeting was his profound respect for fellow Americans who fled religious persecution in the past and, against seemingly insurmountable odds, transformed their land into a prosperous present-day Utah.
More to the point, I believe it is his respect for the qualities required of a people to achieve this level of success. We discussed some of those qualities — a solid work ethic, a fundamental desire to treat others fairly, a political pragmatism of wanting to solve problems in a way that will stand the test of time, fiscal prudence, being innovative and entrepreneurial, having faith at the center of our lives and responsibility to our families and communities, and how these qualities led to Utahns having an outsize influence in the religious, business and political communities.
I believe Trump’s visit to Utah to sign the executive order reducing the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is his way of recognizing Utah’s well-earned reputation of being a responsible steward of its lands over the generations and his belief that this responsible stewardship will continue for generations to come. I also believe it reflects his continued desire to eliminate the overreaching and intrusive aspects of our federal government and that he trusts the opinions and reputations of Utahns more than the D.C. bureaucrats who believe they can better manage these lands from afar.
James M. Evans is the former chairman of the Utah Republican Party.