President Obama designates new national monuments in Nevada, Utah

(Michael Seeley / CC BY 2.0)

WASHINGTON, DC (CBS News) – President Obama is designating two new national monuments in Utah and Nevada, the White House announced Wednesday evening.

Under the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to designate national monuments, Mr. Obama will name the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada. The Bears Ears monument will include 1.35 million acres of federal land, while the Gold Butte monument will include 300,000 acres of land.

“Today, I am designating two new national monuments in the desert landscapes of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada to protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American Tribes,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “Today’s actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes.”

Both sites are somewhat controversial picks. In Nevada, the Gold Butte monument protects land that rancher Cliven Bundy — who instigated a 2014 armed standoff with federal officials over cattle grazing fees — had illegally used for cattle grazing.

And in Utah, Sen. Mike Lee (R) urged Mr. Obama not to designate the Bears Ears monument unilaterally, writing in a Washington Post op-ed that local residents have concerns about ability to continue using the land.

“They do not want outside interests from coastal urban areas dictating to them how to live their lives and manage their lands,” Lee wrote.

President Obama has designated more national monuments than any previous presidents in the 110 years since the Antiquities Act was first passed.

CBS News’ Steven Portnoy contributed to this report.

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