For hunters who missed the news over the holiday, President Obama signed an executive order on Dec. 28 proclaiming Bears Ears in Utah and Gold Butte in Nevada as national monuments. While Congress gives the President the power to designate lands as national monuments under the Antiquities Act, American hunters are reaching out to NRAHLF.org with an important question: Will the move shut down hunting on these lands—collectively spanning more than 1.6 million acres—as is typically the case once land is deemed a national monument? Here is what the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) can share with NRAHLF.org to date.
According to Chris Zealand of the NRA-ILA Research and Information Division, it actually is not clear whether the proclamations creating these new national monuments impose hunting bans. First, the administration has denied that intent in statements to the press. As explained by federal officials, "New mining or energy development will be banned, but existing operations won't be affected. Wood and plant gathering is still allowed as well as hunting, fishing and other recreation."
Second, the actual proclamations establishing the two monuments specifically state that Utah and Nevada will maintain authority over fish and wildlife management as noted below:
Bears Ears: “Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to enlarge or diminish the jurisdiction of the State of Utah, including its jurisdiction and authority with respect to fish and wildlife management.” That proclamation also mentions with approval that Indians and others hunt on the land.
Gold Butte: “Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to enlarge or diminish the jurisdiction of the State of Nevada, including its jurisdiction and authority with respect to fish and wildlife management, including hunting and fishing."
The proclamations additionally require the establishment of advisory committees of stakeholders to provide input on the management of the land.
"While monumental designation does not eliminate hunting," said Susan Recce, director of NRA-ILA's Conservation, Wildlife and Natural Resources Division, "it does affect other uses like livestock grazing and oil, gas and mineral extraction. Whether or not this move will affect access to existing hunting opportunities will become known through the development of the management plan for the monuments to see if critical roads or trails are proposed for closure."
As noted on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website, “The monument designations maintain currently authorized uses of the land that do not harm the resources protected by the monument, including tribal access and traditional collection of plants and firewood, off-highway vehicle recreation, hunting and fishing and authorized grazing.” A BLM fact sheet on the designationsfurther explains, “The designations preserve current uses of the land, including tribal access and traditional collection of plants and firewood, off-highway vehicle recreation, hunting and fishing, legal grazing, military training operations, and utility corridors.”
At this time, it appears that current hunting opportunities are not automatically curtailed. But while the Obama Administration specifically states that hunting will not be affected, NRA-ILA will monitor the scenario to ensure that the concerns of American hunters are represented in the advisory committees.