Senators Lee, Romney reintroduce bill intended to protect Utah’s land

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(ABC4) – Utah’s two senators are coming together to reintroduce a bill intended to protect Utah’s land.

According to a release from Senator Mike Lee, he and Senator Mitt Romney are reintroducing the Protect Utah’s Rural Economy (PURE) Act, “a bill that would protect Utah from presidential Antiquities Act abuse in much the same way Alaska and Wyoming are currently protected.”

“Rural Americans want what all Americans want: a dignified decent-paying job, a family to love and support, and a healthy community whose future is determined by local residents – not their self-styled betters thousands of miles away,” Sen. Lee says. “That is why I am introducing the Protecting Utah’s Rural Economy Act today, a bill that would protect Utah from future abuses under the Antiquities Act by prohibiting the president from establishing or expanding a national monument in Utah unless the proposed monument has been authorized by an act of Congress and the state legislature.”

The bill was first introduced by Sen. Lee in 2018 and reintroduced in 2019.

“Roughly two-thirds of Utah is owned by the federal government, putting our state at a disadvantage when it comes to decisions on management of our public lands,” Senator Romney says. “National monuments in particular have become a political football that gets tossed back and forth as presidential administrations change. Given the recent executive order to review Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, it’s even more important that we work together to end the political back and forth. The legislative process is the best way to achieve this, and I will continue seeking opportunities to work with our federal, state and local elected leaders to come to a permanent solution.”

Passed in 1906, the Antiquities Act was originally intended to protect objects of historic and cultural interest like artifacts and religious sites. Two states, Alaska and Wyoming, both received protections from future Antiquities Act designations after millions of acres were restricted in those states.

According to Sen. Lee, the PURE Act would give Utah’s rural communities a real voice in local land management policies, a voice they currently do not have today.

This comes as Senators Lee and Romney join other Utah lawmakers and elected officials in criticizing recent executive orders signed by President Joe Biden.

In his first few hours in office, Pres. Biden signed an executive order to review the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments.

“For over 25 years, Utah has been the center of controversial and divisive unilateral national monument decisions. Roughly two-thirds of our backyard belongs to the federal government, which has meant land management actions have often been done to us rather than with us. A review in name only with predetermined results, which ultimately leads to a unilateral executive order enlarging the monuments’ boundaries, will not solve the root of the problem and will only deepen divisions in this country,” Utah political figures said in a joint statement.

Days later, the same group of lawmakers and officials released a joint statement in reaction to Pres. Biden’s move to halt energy leases on federal lands, calling it a “serious mistake.”

“The Biden administration’s arbitrary decision to suspend oil and gas leasing and permitting on federal lands is a serious mistake that will harm the same small Utah businesses that are already hurting from the pandemic. This action perpetuates the very discord between rural and urban Americans that the President spoke out against in his inauguration speech. Although it is routine for an incoming administration to pause high-level agency decisions while agency leaders get into place, such a widespread suspension of routine permitting decisions normally made in the field is unprecedented.”

Pres. Biden is expected to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands on Wednesday. It is intended to allow time for officials to review the impact of oil and gas drilling on the environment and climate.

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