On Wednesday, December 28th, 2016, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah.
The President’s action grants a new layer of protection to some of the most spectacular places in southern Utah. There is of course Cedar Mesa, with its incredible canyons running toward the San Juan River. There is White Canyon to the west of Natural Bridges. There are the Bears Ears themselves and the high ponderosa forests of Elk Ridge. To the north there’s Beef Basin and Indian Creek. The new monument withdraws Lockhart Basin, adjacent to Canyonlands National Park, from future energy leasing. Nearly 100,000 archaeological and cultural sites are now covered by the proclamation, including House on Fire and Moon House ruins.
Equally important, the proclamation elevates the voices of the Native American tribes who have ancestral ties to the region. The Bears Ears proposal was led by five Tribes—the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, and Ute Indian Tribes. For the first time in American history, these tribes will have a greater say in the management of the monument. Here at SUWA, we believe it is long past time that Native American voices were heard and honored in the management of public lands.
SUWA has been honored to work with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition in the campaign to create Bears Ears National Monument. Your letters, emails, and postcards to President Obama undoubtedly helped make a difference. This new monument is a victory for tribes, and for the land—but it is also your victory.
Unfortunately, Utah politicians like Representative Rob Bishop have pledged to do all they can to reduce or even rescind the monument. Therefore, even as we celebrate, we must be prepared to stand up in defense of Bears Ears National Monument. Please take a moment and ask your U.S. senators to defend the monument and the Antiquities Act against coming attacks.