Aug 15 2016
I recently had the opportunity to travel to central and southern Utah to meet with the people of Carbon, Emery, Grand, Juab, Sanpete, San Juan, Sevier, and Wayne counties.
Like most who visit central and southern Utah, I am continually awed by the natural beauty found there. What a privilege it is for me to represent the people of this great state, and what a privilege it is to call Utah my home.
Every year, many millions of visitors trek to Utah to experience this state’s natural wonders. However, I fear something is often overlooked by those who visit Utah’s rural areas: People live here. These beautiful places aren’t empty spaces, many thousands of Utahns depend on this land for survival.
During my visit to central and southern Utah, I was able to meet with a diverse array of local Utahns who live and work in our state’s rural spaces. Without question, these Utahns I met with are intimately aware of the value of our public lands and the need to preserve them for future generations.
The following photos show some of the people and places I visited during my visit to central and Southern Utah.
The Bears Ears
During my time in southern Utah I had the opportunity to visit the Bears Ears region and hike to the top of one of the “Bears Ears”. I was joined on the hike by members of the Blue Mountain Diné, a group of San Juan County Navajo that work on behalf of local Navajo that live outside of the reservation. They have substantive and legitimate concerns that greater federal and tribal control of the Bears Ears region will dramatically change their way of life.
Members of the Blue Mountain Diné have started a petition to the White House to ask the president to not go through with this designation. After spending the week meeting with Utahns across the state, I am convinced that local support for this proposed monument is practically non-existent. I hope you will add your voice to the thousands of Utahns and San Juan County Navajo that have asked the president to leave their land and their way of life alone.
San Juan County is small and sparsely populated. Those who support the monument have relied on out-of-state support to create a narrative that there is any level of support for this monument designation. While we welcome all who want to come and experience our great state, the voices of those who have lived off this land for generations should be prioritized over those who come to visit for a weekend.
You can support the local residents of San Juan County and add your voice to the petition to the White House to tell the president to keep the Bears Ears maintained, loved, and managed on a local level. I know that if everyone who sees this also shares it with their friends and family that we can reach millions of people. I also know the citizens of San Juan County will be deeply grateful for your support in this effort. You can join the petition by clicking the following link:
US Senate Field Hearing on the proposed Bears Ears National Monument
On July 27, I hosted a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Field Hearing at San Juan High School in Blanding, Utah. Approximately 1000 local residents attended this hearing to lend their voice to this important discussion.
In response to this hearing, those supporting the Obama Administration in creating a national monument in San Juan County would have you believe two things: one, that local Native Americans hold near-universal support for the creation of a national monument; and two, that the Senate Field Hearing I chaired in San Juan County was restricted in attendance to only those who stand in opposition to the monument.
But both of those assertions are simply not true.
The vast majority of Native Americans in San Juan County stand against the formation of a national monument on their ancestral land. While many out-of-state tribes have expressed support for the monument, the Blue Mountain Diné and the Kayelli Diné—the two San Juan County tribes who’s ancestral land will be most impacted by the monument—are strongly opposed to Bears Ears being declared a national monument.
In an effort to include varied perspectives in the hearing, repeated and multiple invitations were made to Secretary Sally Jewell and other representatives from the U.S. Department of the Interior to attend the hearing. But none of them showed up. We also invited members of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, who committed to attend. But they withdrew their participation in the days just prior to the hearing.
I listened to the people of San Juan County and the verdict is clear: the people who live near Bears Ears do not want Washington, DC to create a Bears Ears monument. We hope that the current administration will take this opportunity to choose a path of cooperation and consensus, and not let outside interest groups force their preferences on the people that live here.
Utah’s Coal Industry
During my time in Carbon and Emery counties, I had the privilege of visiting the Hunter Plan Plant and the Sufco Mine, two of the many sites in our state where hardworking Utahns know all too well the hardships created by regulatory overreach from Washington, D.C.
Currently, the Hunter Plant is being forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to comply with misguided regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while the Sufco mine continues to wait for the Bureau of Land Management to approve the Greens Hollow coal lease.
The federal bureaucracy’s relentless and aggressive war on coal can only mean one thing: the Obama Administration wants to dismantle Utah’s electricity sector and has no concern for the human consequences. Since 2008, the coal industry has taken a beating in Utah. Many thousands of workers have lost employment, and entire communities are now at risk of being shuttered.
But those impacted by the Obama Administration’s “war on coal” aren’t narrowly limited to those who work in extraction and processing?—?it hurts entire communities. It hurts restaurants and schools, small businesses and family farms. It hurts agriculture, transportation, education, recreation, and construction.
As Utah communities collectively shoulder the burden brought on by oppressive federal regulations, no one is left unharmed.
For my entire life I have benefited from coal-fired electricity. Whenever I flip on a light switch, the lights turn on. That is because coal provides Utah with about three-fourths of its electricity. Coal is affordable, reliable, and cleaner than ever. Yet for decades, and increasingly under President Obama, federal regulators, like those at the EPA, have imposed one regulation after another on America’s coal country, in Utah and across the nation.
In the short-term, I will work harder than ever to ensure that any government funding bills that come up in the Senate include provisions to restrict the implementation of harmful regulations. And in the long term, I will work to rein in unaccountable federal regulators by fighting to return lawmaking power to Congress.
Central Utah Correctional Facility
On the last day of my visit I was able to stop by the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison, Utah. In addition to meeting facility administration and staff, I had the opportunity to meet with several dozen inmates currently serving time at the prison.
Since entering the Senate in 2011, I have been pushing to bring reforms to our criminal justice reform. After years of laying the ground work, my Senate colleagues and I announced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act in 2015.
I realize that most people—including many conservatives—might think criminal justice reform is a progressive cause, not a conservative one.
But this has never been true. Criminal justice reform doesn’t call on conservatives to compromise our principles, but to fight for them.
It’s about making our communities—the little platoons of service and cooperation at the heart of our republic—safe and prosperous and happy. It’s about basing our laws, our court procedures, and our prison systems on a clear-eyed understanding of human nature—of man’s predilection toward sin and his capacity for redemption—along with an uncompromising commitment to human dignity.
Although the reforms I am pursuing through the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act in 2015 are focused at reforming the federal system, I am confident that changes to the federal system have the ability to branch out and stimulate reforms in state corrections systems.
I appreciate the Utah Department of Corrections and the Central Utah Correctional Facility for allowing me to spend time with the inmates, staff, and administration of the facility.
Voices of Central and Southern Utah
My visit to Carbon, Emery, Grand, Juab, Sanpete, San Juan, Sevier, and Wayne counties was a great opportunity for me to hear directly from the people of central and southern Utah. I appreciate the many communities, small businesses, organizations, and people that helped make my visit a success.
The conversations I had with local Utahns during my trip had a clear and common thread: that overreach by executive branch agencies and oppressive federal regulations are destroying Utah’s rural communities.
Unfortunately, the Utahns most impacted by oppressive federal agencies and regulations—those who have the most skin in the game—are having their voices silenced during this critical time. On key issues such as public land management and energy production, the Obama Administration has given only token consideration to the voice of local Utahns, while prioritizing the voice of out of state interest groups and activists.
This should not be happening. In Utah, our communities are just as precious of a resource as our beautiful landscapes, and these communities also deserve to be protected. I will continue to fight for local Utahns on these issues and prioritize their voice in these important discussions.