When President Obama first designated the Bears Ears National Monument in Southeastern Utah near Blanding and south of Moab, through abuse of the Antiquities Act, School Land Trust parcels were within the boundaries of the expansive monument. As the boundaries have gone back and forth through reductions and expansions, land in southern Utah have been used as a political ploy for each administration.

When Utah was granted statehood, sections 2, 16, 32 and 36 of each township across the state were set aside to generate money for Utah’s school children. In 1994, the State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) was created to manage these lands. Because these lands were given in a checkerboard pattern throughout the entire state, many of them were within the Bears Ears boundary. These lands are extremely valuable to numerous interests including recreation however national monument designations trigger a process that is rigged to make it seem as if these lands have no value. Because these lands provide guaranteed access to the monument and it’s resources, these parcels are invaluable. SITLA, is wanting to trade out nearly 160,000 acres that were essentially taken by the monument for other lands throughout the state. Any trades with federal land require approval of Congress.

The Cotter Decision guarantees reasonable access on SITLA lands throughout Utah. Once this exchange is made, there is no provision currently in place that would ensure the same access that the public currently has on these highly sought after parcels of land. Congress needs to include some form of insurance that access on SITLA lands won’t be lost simply because the president has abused the power of the Antiquities Act.

The Secretary of the Interior has approved the petition to file a withdrawal application. The entire delegation of Utah seems to support the trade of SITLA parcels for BLM parcels. Utah, unfortunately, is no stranger to land swaps, as we have seen this previously within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

If this swap is approved, BlueRibbon wants to ensure continued recreation and access on the current SITLA parcels. The BLM would now become the land managers of this acreage and it should not be managed restrictively. Wilderness and other forms of restrictive management should be prohibited from this land that has a long history of use and access that benefits the local communities .

Let the Utah delegation as well as your representative know that just because a monument was created, it should not tear away the culture of use of that land. The BLM must manage the land for continued use.