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Trump To Announce Shrinking Utah National Monuments


President Trump is set to visit Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday to announce his plans to reduce the size of two national monuments in the state. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both well over 1 million acres of federal public land, were designated as national monuments by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Critics say that the protected land is too big and that the designation prevents ranchers or oil drillers from using the land's natural resources. Mike Noel is a Republican. And he represents District 73 in the Utah House of Representatives, home to Bears Ears National Monument. He joins me from Kanab, Utah. Welcome to the program.

MIKE NOEL: Thank you so much for having me on today.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You support President Trump's plans to shrink the size of these monuments?

NOEL: Yes, I do. I absolutely think it's important that we do shrink the monuments because they're frankly way too big. And they don't meet the purposes of the Antiquities Act. So, yes, it's - I'm very supportive of the president. And we've tried to get several presidents to do this, Bush and others. But they may never have been able to follow through on it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What we understand is that it will be quite a dramatic reduction. Does it need to be reduced by quite as much as the president is planning on doing it?

NOEL: I believe it does. I think there's a lot of confusion, Lulu, out there with the public that when you change a monument designation you somehow change the nature of the protection on those areas. We have a myriad of layers of protection on these public lands. And before you can do any kind of surface disturbance, you have to go through a full analysis with public input and public notification.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So then why reduce it?

NOEL: Well, because of the fact that the limitations that are given on the monument don't allow us to do the things that the Federal and Policy Management Act passed by Congress allow us to do. For instance, we're getting people killed every year here that get lost. We can't even put in a cell tower. The roads that are existing and have been here for over 100 years - the monument plan shuts those areas down. The grazing systems that we have had in place to protect our watershed and are grazing - a $19 billion industry in Utah - we haven't been allowed to do any kind of vegetative manipulation to improve the grass and the forage out there. You can do it on adjacent BLM lands, and you can do it responsibly. But because of the way this monument is written and put out, you can't do it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. I'd like to talk about the Native American nations in Utah...

NOEL: Sure.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...that oppose this. Six out of seven Navajo chapter houses in Utah oppose reducing the size of Bears Ears. Looting and vandalism of Navajo gravesites has been a huge problem.

NOEL: OK. Let's talk about a couple of things. I do represent the Utah Navajo. The tribal people - if you go down into the reservation in Window Rock, in those areas, I can talk to nine out of 10 Native Americans there - some of my own relatives - and they would tell me that they don't even know what the Bears Ears is about. They don't even know what the monument is. They don't have a clue. But the people living in the area, they know exactly what it is because they run their cows on it. They live on - adjacent to it. And they don't want the white man coming in there and making another designation that takes away the rights that they've had.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. So what would you say to the people who think that national monument status preserves and protects this land? - which, by the way, you know, is important to some communities.

NOEL: I would say I 100 percent agree with you that we need to protect the land. We invite you to come. We invite you to look at it. We invite you to see how we take care of it. We're not against it, but we also live here. We also have to make a living. We also have to be able to have water that comes off these monuments. We have to be able to bring in power. It took us seven years to get a permit, to put a different size crossarm on an existing power-line pole. That's the bureaucracy and the things that happen when you make these designations and you bring in individuals that don't have the interests of the people and the people that have to come to this area and the gateway community.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Representative Michael Noel of Utah, thank you very much.

NOEL: Thank you.