Utah Republicans have the opportunity to demonstrate they can be good stewards of public lands — the world is watching.
With the recent reduction and redrawing of boundaries of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, the current administration and the Republican majority have won new friends and foes in the battle for management of Western public lands. As these battles rage on, sound management of the land is often forgotten or ground to a halt by legal battles. The outrage over abuses of management by executive order on both sides of the aisle is well-founded. Congress has been conspicuously absent in this process, which has led to the ping- pong effect of executive orders followed by a rescinding of those orders with each change in administration party. As Rep. Curtis recently stated, this is not a durable solution.
A new national park does not solve the larger issue of how to best manage and protect the landscapes of the Bears Ears area, which has innumerable cultural artifacts and unparalleled natural treasures. It also does not address adequately the long-simmering issue of Native American voices in their native lands. The pressures on public lands from an ever-growing population and global tourism are threatening to destroy the places we all love. With a clear majority control, Republicans are in a unique position to propose real solutions that balance multiple use, local access and preservation of national treasures for future generations. As a Democrat, admittedly, I have real angst about their ability to do this, but I am willing to see what proposals come forth. With an open mind, I invite the Republican majority to build bridges rather than dams and lead out on this issue with compromise, compassion and love of the land. When the Democrats have the majority at some point in the future, Republicans have every right to expect the same of us. Only through working together will this issue ever be solved in a durable, just and fair way.
Salt Lake City