The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is accepting scoping comments on the Management Plan for Bears Ears National Monument through October 31, 2022. Please consider the following information when submitting comments.
The 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument was originally designated in 2016 at the request of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute, and Pueblo of Zuni. President Trump drastically reduced the monument in 2017. In 2021, President Biden restored the monument to “preserve its spiritual, cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans.”
Importantly, “to ensure that management decisions affecting the monument reflect expertise and traditional and historical knowledge of Tribal Nations” the Biden Proclamation reestablished a Bears Ears Commission “to provide guidance and recommendations on the development and implementation of management plans and on management of the entire monument.” The Commission consists of one elected officer each from the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, and Pueblo of Zuni.
As part of the collaborative planning process, the five Tribes developed A Collaborative Land Management Plan for the Bears Ears National Monument, which “synthesizes Tribal perspectives for the management of the Bears Ears living landscape.”
While preparing the new management plan for Bears Ears National Monument, the BLM and the Forest Service should:
- Establish a proactive process for the Tribal Nations to collaboratively manage BENM with Federal land managers, including:
- Give Indigenous knowledge and Native ways of knowing equal consideration with knowledge from Western scientific processes.
- Establish a reciprocal data sharing relationship between the Tribes and the agencies, with enhanced data acquisition for Tribes.
- Secure Federal funding for and create a full-time collaborative Tribal Management staff to participate in collaborative management with the agencies.
- Define terms in a way that incorporates Tribal perspectives/understanding. For example, define “cultural resources” to include ancestral sites, plants, animals, birds, and minerals.
- To meet their statutory and regulatory obligations — and uphold the letter and spirit of the Bears Ears Proclamation — the agencies should manage identified lands with wilderness characteristics for protection of wilderness values. Management of these lands — which comprise a significant portion of the overall monument— for protection of wilderness values will ensure lasting conservation of the objects and values identified in the Proclamation.
- Establish and implement measures to protect and improve the viewsheds, natural and quiet soundscapes, dark skies, and visual and aesthetic settings of the monument.
- Significantly reduce or eliminate livestock use where livestock grazing is harming monument objects and values, including cultural sites and objects, springs and riparian areas, native vegetation, and soils. Exclude livestock from springs and riparian areas, and prohibit the drilling of new wells.
- Prohibit mechanical treatments (i.e., removal) of sagebrush, piñon pine, juniper, and other vegetation to protect monument objects and the cultural, ecological, scenic, auditory, and wilderness values of the BENM landscape. The agency should use only native species for restoration and post-fire seeding.
- Utilize a zoning management approach to recreation and visitation to provide guidance for future recreation and travel management decisions while helping facilitate visitor experiences (see report: Outdoor Recreation and Ecological Disturbance). In particular:
- Focus any development and expansion of trails and facilities in the frontcountry and existing public-use sites to encourage a focused visitor experience and minimize dispersal of uses into sensitive backcountry areas (See report: Outdoor Recreation and Ecological Disturbance).
- Keep recreation within designated areas and trails, and post signs to educate visitors and ensure they respect the importance of staying within those designated areas.
- Special Recreation Permits and group size limits must prioritize the protection of monument resources, and require permits for backcountry camping.
- Signage upon entering BENM would be an important management tool, and the “leave no trace” philosophy should be enforced.
- The agencies should take this opportunity to close routes that are harming monument objects and values throughout the BENM landscape, including springs and riparian areas, vegetation, soils, air quality (via dust and emissions), viewsheds, and soundscapes. Widespread off-road vehicle use should not be allowed, and no additional routes should be designated.