Editorial: Lies only make a stronger case for Bears Ears Monument
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Bears Ears, seen on the horizon, and its surrounding areas in southeastern Utah, are subject to a possible National Monument designation by President Obama under the Antiquities Act for protection. EcoFlight recently flew journalists, tribal people and activists over the northern portion of the proposed 1.9 million acre site in an effort to push for permanent protection from impacts caused by resource extraction and high-impact public use.
This is far from the first time that offensive efforts to support a political position have won no friends and redoubled the resolve of opponents.
No, this is nothing to do with the fact that one person who opposes the anti-pornography crusade of certain members of the Utah Legislature somehow thinks he’s making any friends by sending every member of the House and Senate copies of his porn rag.
Though the result is likely to be the same. Offense is given. Battle lines are more definitely drawn. No hearts won. No minds changed.
This is about the drive to stop President Obama from using his statutory authority under the federal Antiquities Act to designate some 1.9 million acres of southeast Utah as the Bears Ears National Monument.
As reported by The Tribune’s Paul Rolly and other media organizations, including the U.K.’s venerable Guardian, a war of words, a great many of them utterly false, is being waged by those trying to stop the monument.
It began a few weeks ago when state Rep. Mike Noel, a consistent enemy of federal control of federal land, attacked the allied Native American tribes seeking the Bears Ears designation. Not only did he insinuate that the Indians were not intellectually capable of mounting such a campaign on their own, and thus must be pawns in the hands of various white folks’ environmental groups, he actually led the call for a state attorney general’s investigation of such links.
More recently, someone has been trying to sow discord among various native groups by circulating forged and false messages suggesting that the federal government is planning to seize large portions of native lands, and false notices of celebratory gatherings from which members of certain tribes are specifically disinvited.
These tactics of lies and division are more offensive to the idea of free speech than any dozen filthy magazines. Not only are they racist in tone, they are a tactic based on the hope of dividing neighbor from neighbor, stoking anti-federal anger and encouraging a level of discord that, in some other locations, has come to the brink of violence.
The alternative to a national monument, the Public Lands Initiative pushed by Utah Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, has still not been formally introduced. Even if it were to be put before Congress, provisions such as concessions to oil and gas development and grants to the state of a long list of phony roadways make the bill a non-starter.
Obama, looking both at his own legacy and the political calculations that might help another Democrat succeed him, is likely to announce the Bears Ears designation soon. Perhaps even before the election.
The squalid squabbling that’s been going on in Utah suggests he will be right to do so.