San Juan County residents welcome visit from Secretary Zinke

BLANDING, Utah (ABC 4 Utah)- The Trump Administration has come to town, and a lot is on the line for public lands in our state.

Interior secretary Ryan Zinke is touring two national monuments, and taking input from local stakeholders.

This is the latest step in a bitter battle over public lands in Utah. Both sides say their way of life is at risk, and they are doing all they can to protect it.

On Main Street in Blanding, Utah sits the JC Hunt Company. Carl and DeeAnn Hunt are the owners. They distribute petroleum to farmers and ranchers in the Four Corners area.

All around their business you will find a strong statement on public lands. They want the Bears Ears National Monument rescinded.

“We are afraid we will lose those rights to go on the land, and to enjoy the land the way that we have," said DeeAnn Hunt.

The Hunts say the process under the Obama Administration was hijacked, and local voices weren't heard.

"Everybody was against the designation of the monument, and yet that was never taken into consideration. We feel like the monument was a foregone conclusion," said Carl Hunt.

Now opponents are getting a second chance under President Trump’s Executive Order calling for a review of the Antiquities Act.

Over the next few days Secretary Zinke will get an up close look at the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase- Escalante monuments, which combine for about 3.2 million acres.

He's also meeting with local stakeholders to get their input on the impact. Even monument supporters are welcoming the visit.

"I'm glad he's coming to educate himself, and also walk the lay of the land, to have a better understanding," said Mark Maryboy, with Utah Dine Bikeyah, and former San Juan County Commissioner.

But, Maryboy says they are ready to file a lawsuit with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals if President Trump decides to rescind the monument or alter the size.

They say it's about protecting sacred traditions.

"Go baby, go baby drill. That's their philosophy, and we are all about conservation, Mother Earth, protect the land. We believe in climate change," said Maryboy. 

The Hunts say they too want to preserve the land. They say it's in their blood, but they say the monument consumes way too much land.

"We've lived here, we love the land, we take care of it. We've been taught as young people to be stewards over the land and to take care of it," said DeeAnn Hunt.

Secretary Zinke is viewing the Bears Ears National Monument by helicopter and horseback on Monday. No decisions will be made during this trip.


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