President Obama designates Bears Ears National Monument in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - President Barack Obama has designated two new national monuments in Utah and Nevada at sites that have become key flashpoints over public land in the U.S. West.

Malcolm Lehi, a Ute Mountain Tribal Commissioner points to a rock formation near Blanding, Utah. “We don't want to forget about our ancestors,” said Lehi. “Through them we speak. That's the whole concept of protecting and healing this land. They are still here among us as the wind blows.” (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The announcement Wednesday marks the administration's latest move to protect environmentally sensitive areas in its final days.

The White House says Bears Ears National Monument in Utah will cover 1.35 million acres of tribal land in the Four Corners region. A coalition of tribes pushed to ensure protections for lands that are home to an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings.

Critics called it another layer of unnecessary federal control that would close the area to development and recreation.

The 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument outside Las Vegas also was named. It's an ecologically fragile area near where Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy led an armed standoff with government agents in 2014.

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