President Obama designated two new national monuments on Wednesday aimed at protecting sacred Native American sites in the desert regions of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada. The move will “protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes,” Obama said in a statement. But the move to designate more than a million acres of land a national landmark, thereby protecting it from development, is a controversial one, particularly in the West.
The Bears Ears National Monument in Utah will protect approximately 1.35 million acres of land and the Gold Butte National Monument will cover some 300,000 acres in Nevada. “Environmental groups have praised the conservation efforts, but critics say they amount to a federal land grab,” according to the Washington Post. “Some worry that the new designations could fuel another armed protest by antigovernment forces inspired by the Cliven Bundy family, such as the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon this year.”