Presidential hopeful, Senator Elizabeth Warren stoped in Utah on Wednesday to discuss her plans for public-lands as well as a promise to restore the broader protection for two of Utah's national monuments if she were elected president.
Warren's plan sets her apart as one of the few Democratic candidates who have addressed the topic of public lands. Senator Warren stated that shrinking two expansive Southwestern monuments would open up more land to potentially damaging extraction projects. She stated, "These national forests are our national treasure for everyone in this country, not here simply to be exploited by mining companies and drilling companies."
The Republican National Committee has dubbed her plan as a "government takeover" that would in turn hurt the economy. Utah state GOP leaders as well as local leaders have long been frustrated with how the federal government has managed the use of public lands, which make up roughly 47% of the land in Utah. They were pleased with President Trump's decision back in 2017 which shrunk the monuments stating that it would allow for the state to have a more flexible use of the land, as well as offer more of a local control over the area.
The movement that was made by President Trump back in 2017 shrunk the Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and cut the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in half. According to Jason Perry with the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, this decision greatly divided Utah voters on the issue. Perry stated, "There are passionate feelings on both sides."
Perry stated that, "Elizabeth Warren is playing to a much larger audience than the state of Utah." Included in her proposed plan that she discussed in Utah, was her plan to introduce a ban on new fossil fuel leasing on public lands as well as introducing free entry to all national parks.
Since the reduction in size of the Bears Ears Monument, there have yet to be any large-scale drilling or mining operations from the land that was cut out of the monuments, though some companies are in the early stages of the permit process to access that land.