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 granted 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 these culturally important lands.
Unfortunately, Utah politicians are doing all they can to persuade the Trump administration to reduce or even rescind the monument. On June 12th, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke issued an interim report recommending that Bears Ears National Monument be significantly reduced in size—a move that simultaneously dishonored Native American Tribes and ignored the input of hundreds of thousands of American citizens.
The public comment period for the Interior Department’s national monument review closed on July 10, 2017. More than 2 million comments favored leaving our national monuments intact.