Thomas Burr – The Salt Lake Tribune
The head of the U.S. Interior Department says there is no Plan B in place if Utah officials, environmentalists and Congress aren’t able to strike a deal to protect land in the eastern and southern part of the state — but adds that she would like to see a plan in writing soon.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Tuesday that all eyes are on the effort to craft the Public Lands Initiative by Utah Republican Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and more details need to be forthcoming.
“There is certainly an effort on their part to push that through, and that’s what we’re working with them on at this point in time,” Jewell said at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “I’m not going to suggest that there is any kind of firm plan if their plan doesn’t work. We need to see a plan.”
Asked if President Barack Obama would name a new national monument in Utah if the Bishop and Chaffetz effort fails, Jewell didn’t answer directly. Instead, she said she looks forward to seeing the details of the plan.
Jewell added that there are some “amazing cultural or natural resources that right now have little or no protection.”
Tribal leaders in southeastern Utah are pushing to preserve nearly 2 million acres in an area known as Bears Ears that contains culturally and archaeologically important sites. Legislation has yet to advance to preserve the area and tribal leaders have said they are open to the idea that Obama could use his unilateral power under the Antiquities Act to name a new monument there. (…)