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House effort to block monuments faces veto threat

The House on Fire ruins in Mule Canyon, near Blanding, Utah. They are one of an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites within a 1.9-million acre Bears Ears area.

House Republicans have passed a spending bill that could block a new national monument in southeastern Utah. But the effort faces a White House veto threat.

Republican Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah added a provision to an Interior Department spending bill that blocks money for any new monuments in portions of eight states, including 17 Utah counties.

The House passed the bill Thursday, but the measure is expected to run into a filibuster from Senate Democrats and the White House veto threat.

The vote comes as U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is visiting Utah to meet with supporters and opponents of the Bears Ears monument.

A coalition of tribes says the 1.9 million-acre area needs bolstered protections.

At least 10 environmental groups say a public lands plan from two Utah congressmen doesn’t offer enough protections for a sacred Native American site in the southeastern part of the state.

The Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and other environmental groups said it’s instead time for President Barack Obama to designate the Bears Ears area as a national monument to protect it from looting, vandalism or energy development.

Republican Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop oppose the monument plan and instead on Thursday released legislation that protects a smaller area around Bears Ears as a conservation area.

Chaffetz notes that several environmental groups, including The Pew Charitable Trusts, are supportive of their effort. Pew says it has concerns with some provisions in the legislation but it supports its fundamental premise.

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