The use of land by the federal government has always been a contentious issue. From the founding of the United States, the private ownership of land by citizens has been one of the most important virtues of our nation.
The government cannot seize land from citizens or dictate what we do on our land. But there are still millions of acres in America untouched or under the government’s control. What happens to that land is often decided by bureaucrats or politicians, eager to make a lasting mark on our country.
But it’s not always a popular decision, especially to the native tribes that have lived here for centuries.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (R) pledged to sue the White House on Wednesday after President Barack Obama set aside 1.35 million acres, including sacred tribal lands, for one of two new national monuments.
In a lengthy statement, Reyes accused Obama of “egregious overreach” and claimed the designation, named Bears Ears National Monument, would restrict local Navajo from using the land for traditional purposes. Obama also designated a second, smaller tract, the 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument in the Nevada desert.
“The sacred tribal areas in and around Bears Ears should absolutely be protected but in a way that is legally sound and that makes sense,” Reyes said in the statement. “The local Navajo will no longer be able to gather medicine or firewood, graze cattle, hunt, maintain their livelihoods or access the mountain heights for their religious ceremonies.”
There’s been a long conflict between native tribes and the U.S. government in regards to national monuments. Often native peoples consider American landmarks a desecration, as they destroy sacred sites or tracts of land.
It’s strange to see a president that often praises people of diverse backgrounds to take land for government use. Obama is using the 1906 Antiquities Act to take the land, a law that is perhaps out of date in this day and age.
While the president claims the land won’t be restricted for use by native tribes, there is no guarantee, once government forces start to work.
Bureaucracy and red tape that will be used to turn the land into national monuments could prevent people, who are currently using it for traditional purposes, from gaining access. In the future, they might even be arrested for “trespassing” on land they once had access to.
While Reyes is moving forward with his lawsuit, Obama and his own people are pushing back.
A fitting end to his administration, if you ask me.