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Press Release

Native Utah Navajo, Administration Support Bill to Create First Tribally Managed National Monument

Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held its second legislative hearing on H.R. 4532, the “Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act.” Introduced by Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), the bill creates the first tribally co-managed national monument in history.

In the waning days of office, President Obama unilaterally designated the Bears Ears National Monument (BENM) against the will of Utah’s elected leaders, local stakeholders and tribes.

Despite empty promises to the contrary, the original 2016 BENM proclamation did not bestow tribal co-management, nor did it have the authority to do so. Instead, the proclamation created a token advisory role for tribes and no legal or official decision making authority.

“Unfortunately, the former Bears Ears proclamation never mentioned tribal management – just an advisory commission,” Commissioner of the San Juan County Commission and Navajo Native Rebecca Benally argued.

Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond described the federal government’s plenary authority over federal land-use decisions, and the need for Congressional action to establish tribal co-management over a national monument.

“A key component of this legislative proposal is the enabling of tribal co-management of the Shash Jáa Monument… Congressional sanction of this distinctive and collaborative management agreement would facilitate the active participation of tribal entities in the area,” Hammond added.

H.R. 4532 establishes the Shash Jaa Tribal Management Council, made up of a minimum of four local tribal members, guaranteeing tribal input in management decisions.

“By supporting H.R. 4532 you are listening to a group that has been silenced for too long and finally allowing us a seat at the table. We all come from different backgrounds, but we want the same results. We want land that is well-managed and accessible to all people,” Benally stated.

“This bill establishes something unique in U.S. history: monument management councils that give all the teams a voice in land management—including, for the first time, the vitally important voice of the Tribes,” Attorney General of the State of Utah Sean Reyes stated.

Former Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), referring to a letter from Chairman Bishop in 2013, asserted that the Utah Delegation was working for years to development a Public Lands Initiative (PLI) that incorporated input from local tribes, communities and stakeholders on how to properly manage and protect Utah’s cherished lands.

“There is a growing consensus that a more reasonable, balanced use of the public lands can be achieved in Utah. Through conversations with county and state officials, tribal leaders, conservation groups, industry, non-government organizations an, the public,” the letter stated.

Chaffetz recalled some of the meetings that took place during PLI discussions, including one with Navajo Nation President Begaye where he recollected that Begaye “had never heard of Bears Ears nor did he have any idea where it was located.”

“His concern was about access for local Navajos – access that is not found with a monument designation,” Chaffetz added.

“The well-known disagreements that bring us together today never have been about whether these specific lands should be protected; they have been about how best to accomplish that goal. H.R. 4532 is a sensible and responsible answer to that question. Congress should pass it with all deliberate speed,” Reyes stated.

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), signifying the alleged reason for a monument designation under the Antiquities Act is to increase protections for objects of antiquities in the area, asked Chaffetz how many people were added to protect the area under Obama’s proclamation. “Zero,” Chaffetz responded.

Bishop further asked if Curtis’ legislation would authorize more protection than under the Obama proclamation. “A lot more protection,” Chaffetz added.

The bill also establishes the first-of-its-kind Archaeological Resources Protection Unit, a statutory assignment of additional law enforcement personnel, and additional federal dollars, for the exclusive protection of antiquities within monument boundaries.

Click here to view full witness testimony.  


President Trump signed an Executive Order in April 2017, requiring a review of recent monument designations to determine whether they were consistent with the “original objectives” of the Antiquities Act.  The review asserted, among other conclusions, that BENM’s size was not the "smallest area compatible" with care of the objects requiring protection, as required under the Act, and that tribes did not have an "adequate role" in managing the monument.

On December 4, 2017, President Trump signed a proclamation to protect identified antiquities in the region with the creation of two new separate, more targeted monuments: the Shash Jáa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument. H.R. 4532 codifies those actions and prevents future administrations from arbitrarily modifying the monument boundaries.