Chaffetz's Thumbs His Nose at Tribes and Voters
Chaffetz urges Trump to rescind Bears Ears designation
Jennifer Yachnin, E&E News reporter
Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz yesterday continued his campaign to rescind the new Bears Ears National Monument in a one-on-one meeting with President Trump.
And Chaffetz said the new commander in chief is "very sympathetic" about concerns over the 1.35-million-acre site designated late last year.
Following his 30-minute meeting with Trump, Chaffetz — who had initially acknowledged he did not know why the president had summoned him to the White House — told Utah media outlets that he raised his opposition to the state's newest national monument as the first discussion point.
"I took this unique opportunity when meeting with the president to bring it up as subject No. 1," Chaffetz told the Deseret News.
Along with the rest of the Beehive State's six-member congressional delegation, Chaffetz has called for Trump to undo President Obama's designation of the site in southeast Utah.
During a recent Republican legislative retreat in Philadelphia, Chaffetz similarly pitched his case to Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Interior secretary nominee Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) (Greenwire, Jan. 26).
Chaffetz said Trump did not reveal whether he will move to undo the monument, either via the Antiquities Act or by urging Congress to take action to abolish the site.
"He was more in the receiving mode. I think he was very sympathetic to the hardship that it creates for Utah," said Chaffetz, who added that the discussion lasted about five minutes before turning to other topics. "It was obvious he had heard about it previously."
Although Congress has in the past abolished a handful of monuments or converted their status, the Antiquities Act does not give presidents explicit authority to undo protections put in place by their predecessors.
Given that no president has ever sought to do so, most observers suggest such an action by Trump could lead to legal battles.
Chaffetz, who serves as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he passed along a letter from Utah's delegation opposing the monument and a copy of the state Legislature's recent resolution calling for the site to return to its pervious status.
While Chaffetz has sought documents related to Trump's lease of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, the duo did not discuss that subject during their meeting, and Trump prohibited him from raising oversight issues, he said.
Conservation groups immediately criticized Chaffetz for his continued campaign against Bears Ears, pointing to the lawmaker's own recent decision to kill a bill that called for the disposal of more than 3 million acres of federal land across 10 states (Greenwire, Feb. 2).
"Just last week Representative Chaffetz withdrew a piece of anti-public lands legislation after a strong backlash, saying 'I hear you.' In asking President Trump to abolish the Bears Ears National Monument, it's clear he didn't get the message," Center for Western Priorities Advocacy Director Jesse Prentice-Dunn said in a statement.
A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the meeting or offer further details about Trump's plan for the monument.