Utah’s politicians only have themselves to blame for the Bears Ears mess

The state of Utah’s fervent opposition to protecting the Bears Ears area of Utah has just cost its economy $45 million, as outdoor industry leaders have withdrawn a trade show there in response to the state’s opposition to public lands.

Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox was recently forced to concede that the state’s leaders “have done a terrible job” talking about public lands, following the outcry against Utah politicians’ opposition to the Bears Ears monument from the outdoor industry.

Exhibit A for that “terrible job” is Lt. Gov. SpencerCox.  See this video of Cox claiming that federal public land managers were “systematically destroying a way of life.” 

Those are hardly the words of a moderate dealmaker who is just interested in making sure Utah gets the best deal in the Bears Ears.  They are the words of someone who is ideologically opposed to publicly-owned lands, and they would be right at home at a meeting of Sen. Ken Ivory’s American Lands Council, or in friendly testimony before Congressman Rob Bishop’s House Natural Resources Committee.  And they are a big part of the reason why there is such controversy over this issue.

Now that Utah’s opposition to Bears Ears may cost the state money, politicians are changing their tune, and trying to make the public forget they missed their chance to protect Bears Ears and avoid a monument by passing Congressman Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative.  In both cases, they have no one but themselves to blame.

Soon after he’s nominated Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke will come to Utah to discuss Bears Ears.  He will almost certainly hear powerful members of Congress and state leaders claim they are the victims of executive overreach.  Don’t let them forget that they are the reason for the problems they now face.

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