5 Reasons Bears Ears Needs to be a National Monument
Conservation Alliance grantees – including Verde grant nominee Grand Canyon Trust – are working to support a first-of-its-kind inter-tribal coalition of five sovereign Native American Tribes. The tribes include Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni. Collectively they are calling upon President Obama to designate a 1.9 million acre national monument for the Bears Ears cultural landscape.
Many Verde Voice readers know and love southeastern Utah’s Bears Ears region. From world class crack climbing at Indian Creek, singletrack in the Abajo Mountains, backpacking in Grand Gulch, to floating the San Juan River from Sand Island to Clay Hills, adventure abounds here. But it’s not just valuable for recreation and scenery, it is a cultural landscape with more than 100,000 cultural sites that many southwestern tribes have known since time immemorial as their ancestral homeland.
Here’s why Bears Ears needs to be designated a national monument now.
1. Halt Desecration and Grave Robbing
Bears Ears is actively being pillaged now – rock art panels are being vandalized, gravesites are being dug up, and thousands of years’ worth of human history are being erased. At least five serious, recent cases of desecration are under active investigation, and many others go unreported and most go unprosecuted.
2. Protect and Grow Utah’s Recreation Economy
An Outdoor Industry Association report shows that outdoor recreation in Utah alone generates $12 billion in consumer spending, 122,000 direct Utah jobs totaling $3.6 billion in wages and salaries, and $856 million in state and local tax revenue. This shows an even greater need to ensure recreation areas like the Bears Ears region are not handed over to private interests or leased for development and mining.
3. Reduce Threats from Irresponsible Development
Oil and gas development and potash and uranium mining threaten to restrict access to and forever destroy beloved recreation sites. Imagine having to breathe the dust and hear the noise from drilling near your favorite climb in Indian Creek, or having to fight for highway space with ore trucks on your way in to canyoneer the White Canyon Black Box. The cultural resources and recreational opportunities here cannot be replaced once they are disturbed or destroyed.
4. An Unprecedented Opportunity for Healing
A new national monument for Bears Ears will bring all people together to study and appreciate the spectacular scenery, the exceptional recreation, and the vibrant living cultures of Native Americans. National monuments protect these values that are important to all Americans, ensuring the future of our shared heritage.
5. Utahns Want a New National Monument
Support for Bears Ears is strong and it’s unified. 26 southwestern Native American Tribes support a new national monument, as does the National Congress of American Indians representing an additional 225 tribes. Utahns also support Bears Ears; the recent State of the Rockies poll found 66% of Utahns in favor of a new national monument for Bears Ears.
We’re excited about Bear Ears and we hope you are too! You can help make sure 2016 is the “Year of Bears Ears” by signing the petition to President Obama in support of the tribes to permanently protect Bears Ears as a national monument. You can learn more about the effort at http://www.protectbearsears.org/.
All photos by Tim Peterson
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