Republican lawmakers are trying to counter accusations that the Trump administration drastically shrank the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah to benefit the uranium mining industry.
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, introduced a bill last month that explicitly bars mining and drilling in the new monument area as well as in the land that was protected before President Trump altered the boundaries.
Former President Barack Obama, who created the 1.35-acre Bears Ears National Monument just before he left office, had banned mining and drilling there. Trump on Dec. 4 signed a proclamation cutting Bears Ears by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent, and creating two smaller monuments instead.
“The idea of any kind of mining taking place there is remote, if not impossible, in the first place,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, who co-sponsored Curtis’ bill. “It’s one of the reasons the industry is not testing us on this type of provision. There is no mining or oil there. That’s part of the false narrative driven by special interest groups. That’s bogus.”
Energy Fuels, a Canadian uranium producer with mining claims in the area, has endorsed Curtis’ bill. The New York Times and Washington Post have reported Energy Fuels lobbied the Trump administration for the Bears Ears rollback, saying it would give easier access to the area’s uranium deposits and help it operate a nearby processing mill.
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