The Outdoor Alliance, The Conservation Alliance, and Outdoor Industry Association applauded President Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears National Monument, siting the monument’s role in providing recreational access to the public.
Bears Ears includes 1.9 million acres that start just south of Moab and stretch to Bluff. The land borders the Navajo Nation, as well as the White Mesa Ute community south of Blanding in southern Utah. Within the boundaries are more than 100,000 archaeological sites, including ancestral Puebloan structures, Navajo hogans and Navajo and Ute rock art.
The land is also where the Navajo and Ute people have traditionally performed ceremonies, gathered medicinal plants and collected pine nuts and firewood. Over the years, several of the archaeological sites have been looted or vandalized, leading to a movement to protect the land. And while the involved parties agree the land needs to be protected, the details of how to do that have been divisive.
In 2013, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, formed the Public Lands Initiative to evaluate how to best protect the region. Dozens of plans have been proposed that offer varying degrees of protection, from turning the region or portions of it into a national conservation areato stricter regulations through national monument designation.
Several tribes with ties to the area felt they were left out of the conversation about how to protect the land. That led to the formation of the Bears Ears Inter-tribal Coalition, which includes members of the Navajo Nation; Hopi Tribe; Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, which includes the White Mesa Ute; Pueblo of Zuni; and Ute Indian Tribe. In October, the coalition petitioned President Barack Obama to designate the nearly 2 million acres as a national monument.
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