Guest editorial |

Guest editorial

Bears Ears Monument preserves multiple uses, enhances livelihoods

Kirsten Johanna Allen, Karin Anderson, Alexis Ashworth, Lee Udall Bennion, Louisa Bennion, Amanda Foutz, Lisa Gehrke, Heidi Hartshorn, Laura Kamala, Linda G. Keyes, Wendy Zeigler
Members, Public Lands Policy and Education Committee, Utah Women Unite

Truth takes another hit in a new ad campaign, largely funded by the Sutherland Institute (“New Ad Campaign Takes Aim at Rescinding Bears Ears National Monument”, KSL, March 22). The television spots aim to persuade Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to rescind the national monument designation for Bears Ears, suggesting that the monument takes away livelihoods in San Juan County. As supporters of Utah’s public lands and Native communities, we feel compelled to address the propaganda contained in this campaign with facts.

The Sutherland Institute campaign claims that local Native Americans do not support the national monument designation for Bears Ears. This is fundamentally false. In 2015, the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe established the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which proposed national monument protection for Bears Ears. With the backing of their tribal governments, the coalition consistently argued for the monument. They seek to preserve their cultural history and prevent further desecration of these lands at the hands of grave robbers, looters, and vandals. Local Native Americans have spoken loud and clear: they want the monument. Their voices should not be silenced.

This new campaign also insinuates that the land will no longer be open to multiple uses. This is again, fundamentally false. All existing leases for grazing and mineral extraction will be honored. Existing pipelines and other infrastructure will be kept intact. Recreation and hunting will still be allowed, and traditional Native practices of plant and herb gathering are expressly protected by the monument’s proclamation. Private land ownership will not be regulated by the monument, and existing uranium extraction sites were intentionally left outside of the monument area to prevent confusion. However, the monument designation does prevent out-of-state, corporate entities from getting their hands on the mining leases they covet.

Finally, the campaign claims that the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service do not have the funding to provide additional protections for Bears Ears, and that San Juan County can easily do it on its own. In a stroke of contradiction, this same campaign also points out that San Juan County is the poorest county in the state of Utah. Managing public lands takes money, and a lot of it. In reality, if San Juan County and/or even the state of Utah took control of Bears Ears, it would soon become apparent that there are neither current budgetary appropriations nor additional funds to put towards the management of this land. The ongoing desecration of cultural sites and sacred lands at Bears Ears further shows that San Juan County is unable to protect the area on its own. The best option for management includes the tribes, the Forest Service, and the BLM as outlined in the monument proclamation.

Utah has a unique opportunity to honor the wishes of local Native Americans, to attract more recreational income from around the country, and to maintain current private interests. Preserving Bears Ears national monument will lead to even more vibrant local and state economies.

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