‘Rural Americans want what all Americans want’: Sens. Lee, Romney introduce Protect Utah’s Rural Economy Act

Composite image. Background photo shows the two buttes that make up the namesake for Utah's Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah, Dec. 28, 2016. Inset public domain photos of Sen. Mike Lee (left) and Sen. Mitt Romney. | Background photo by Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via The Associated Press, St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA – Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee reintroduced the Protect Utah’s Rural Economy – or PURE – Act on Friday, a bill that would protect Utah from presidential Antiquities Act abuse in much the same way Alaska and Wyoming are currently protected.

“Rural Americans want what all Americans want: a dignified decent-paying job, a family to love and support, and a healthy community whose future is determined by local residents – not their self-styled betters thousands of miles away,” Lee said in a press release.

“That is why I am introducing the Protecting Utah’s Rural Economy Act today,” he continued, “a bill that would protect Utah from future abuses under the Antiquities Act by prohibiting the president from establishing or expanding a national monument in Utah unless the proposed monument has been authorized by an act of Congress and the state legislature.”

Lee’s colleague, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney added that roughly two-thirds of Utah is owned by the federal government, which he said puts Utah “at a disadvantage when it comes to decisions on management of our public lands.”

“National monuments in particular have become a political football that gets tossed back and forth as presidential administrations change,” Romney said in the press release. “Given the recent executive order to review Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, it’s even more important that we work together to end the political back and forth. The legislative process is the best way to achieve this, and I will continue seeking opportunities to work with our federal, state and local elected leaders to come to a permanent solution.”

Passed in 1906, the Antiquities Act was originally intended to protect objects of historic and cultural interest like artifacts and religious sites.

“Unfortunately, what was once a narrowly targeted tool for preventing looting on federal lands has become a weapon urban elites use against hard working rural Americans,” the press release from Lee’s office states.

Two states, Alaska and Wyoming, both received protections from future Antiquities Act designations after millions of acres were restricted in those states. The PURE Act would give Utah’s rural communities a voice in local land management policies, Lee said, a voice they currently do not have today.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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