Environment | Opinion | Politics

Kevin Washburn: Republicans punish tribe with public lands initiative






The seal of the Ute Tribe of Utah is seen on a gymnasium on the reservation. Photo from Ute Tribe Recreation / Facebook

Kevin Washburn, the former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, speaks out against the Utah Public Lands Initiative, a Republican-drafted proposal that would take land from the reservation of the Ute Tribe, as he calls for the protection of an area known as Bears Ears:
In addition to approaching the White House for a national monument, interested citizens of the region have also encouraged congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, both Utah Republicans, to develop legislation to protect the area. Tribes have been outspoken about the need for management of this land and have expressed frustration that both congressmen have seemed to ignore tribal concerns and have refused to engage with tribes even when they sat in the same room.

After much foot-dragging, Bishop and Chaffetz last month finally released a public land initiative for this area that is focused more on facilitating mineral development and less on protecting archeological resources.

Bishop, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, has bristled at criticism from tribes. To punish the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation for expressing past frustrations, Bishop has proposed to transfer thousands of acres of federal land within the tribe’s Uncompahgre Reservation to the State of Utah in exchange for state lands outside the reservation. His stated purpose was to consolidate within the reservation the scattered parcels of state land held for the state education trust fund to facilitate mineral development and “maximize revenue for Utah’s schoolkids.”

Of all the federal land that exists throughout Utah, Bishop’s decision to focus the consolidation effort on taking the land within the Ute Indian reservation is diabolically genius. It pits the Indian tribe against schoolchildren. Let’s hope that our own congressional delegation opposes Bishop’s cynical and vindictive strategy.

Get the Story:
Kevin K. Washburn: Cedar Mesa land proposal good for all (The Albuquerque Journal 2/7)

Related Stories:
Tribes reiterate bid for national monument at Bears Ears in Utah (01/22)
Navajo Nation Council dispels misinformation about Bears Ears (10/29)
Tribes call for establishment of Bears Ears National Monument (10/16)
Jim Enote: Bears Ears worthy of status as national monument (10/14)
Tribes call for new national monument on sacred lands in Utah (8/5)