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Utah Congressman Refuses Navajo Nation's Request to Withdraw Bears Ears Shrinkage Bill

Navajo Nation
U.S. Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), left, sits next to Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye at a meeting to encourage the Congressman to withdraw his bill encouraging a shrinkage of Bears Ears

An unusual meeting between a sitting member of Congress and Utah Navajos on the Navajo Nation Monday failed to produce any agreement over legislation regarding Bears Ears National Monument. In a release, the tribe says its officials urged U.S. Representative John Curtis, a Utah Republican, to withdraw a bill that would codify changes to the monument advocated by President Trump. When Barack Obama created the monument in 2016, he set aside 1.35 million acres in Southeast Utah. But a year later, Trump said he would reduce the monument to two parcels totaling about 200,000 acres. The Navajo Nation and four other tribes that had called for the monument’s creation oppose the reduction. During the meeting with Curtis at the Mexican Water Chapter House, a number of tribal officials called for keeping the monument intact. Attorney General Ethel Branch spoke about the importance of protecting the landscape, saying much of the reservation has already been damaged by natural-resources extraction. She noted there are more than 520 abandoned uranium sites scarring the nation’s lands. But Curtis said he does not intend to withdraw his bill and had come hoping to work out a compromise that would help his legislation move forward. President Russell Begaye said the tribe had already compromised, since it had originally called for a monument of 1.9 million acres.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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