In the final days of his administration, President Obama has decided that with the stroke of pen, he shall further consolidate direct federal control over lands within Western states. Specifically, Obama created the Bear Ears National Monument and the Gold Butte National Monument in Utah and Nevada, respectively. The Obama Administration claims that Obama's unilateral edict was necessary because Congress had not passed any legislation on the matter.
Indeed, the Obama-appointed Interior Secretary stated that "protecting the area using legislation would have been preferable" but that in the absence of legislation, it was necessary to simply declare the lands to be National Monuments.
In other words, the democratic, constitutional process of Congressional lawmaking was inconvenient for the President. So, he decided to rule by proclamation instead, giving the Governor of Utah barely an hour's notice before the proclamation was made public.
It's Not About Conservation — It's About Federal Control
Now, we should first note that the overwhelming majority of lands newly designated as National Monument lands were already federal lands to begin with, and have been controlled largely by the US Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.
Moreover, it is not the case that opponents to the new designation are mostly people who want to privatize the land or make it easier to mine or develop the land. In fact, many opponents of the designation oppose it because they fear Monument status will lead to greaterdevelopment of the area as a tourist mecca.
In other cases, members of Indian tribes object to making sacred lands part of a federally-controlled National Monument area.
And, of course, throughout Western states, public lands continue to be a lucrative source of tourist dollars and eco-tourism. The old caricature of pro-conservationist leftists and strip-mining conservatives has long been just that: a caricature.
The reality is that nowadays many private firms and local governments depend on public lands for their livelihood and revenue, and these groups have quite a bit of influence at the state legislatures in question. Preserving natural spaces from development can mean big business and Western-state politicians know it: