The Protection of Bears Ears National Monument
The protection or utilization of Bears Ears National Monument has caused quite a stir in Utah over the past couple of months. Whether you are a Utah resident, environmentalist, or stand opposed, I am sure you have heard the debate. On December 28th, 2016 former president Barack Obama used the Antiquities Act to create two national monuments. One of which resides in Utah, Bears Ears National Monument, and the other in Arizona named the Golden Butte National Monument. The former president decided to implement these due to the overwhelming amount of letters he received asking him to do so by five different Native American tribes that live in Utah and Arizona. Why did these Native American tribes ask the former president to protect all this land?
The land that is now called Bears Ears National Monument holds over 100,000 ancient artifacts, petroglyphs, pictographs, ceremonial kivas, and old cave dwellings. This land is considered to be very sacred by many people. Without the land protection, this area would be the largest unprotected archeological site in the United States. Many would agree that this land is more important than profit. The land does not belong to the Utah government, but it belongs to the people who were here first. If this National Monument is taken away from the Utah people, it will be used for things such as oil, gas, and mining production. Not only does this pose some problems for the land environmentally, but also without the National Monument the land won’t be protected from destruction and tampering of the previously mentioned ancient artifacts. “We don’t want to disturb the final resting places of our ancestors, and to think that objects that may have been buried with them could be brought up. We would never do that to a family plot or a graveyard anywhere else”, said Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk a tribe member from the Ute Mountain tribe. Part of the designation of Bears Ears National monument includes a facility to educate people about the delicacy and importance of the ancient artifacts. The video below was created by the Inter Tribal-Coalition, this video shows why this land is sacred and needs protection.
Video from the Inter-Tribal Coalition:
The video above is a great representation of the voices of the Native Americans. It shows a first hand account as to why they feel the need to protect this land and what it means to them.
Much of the land that was previously owned by the Native Americans has been taken from them. This is Utah’s chance to show some respect to the people that came before us. Below is a map of the United States that shows the land previously owned by the Native Americans from 1776 to the present time.
The land that is currently protected but under fire includes 1.9 million acres and contains some of Utah’s most precious recreational sites. This land follows Moab one hundred miles South to Bluff, then to Canyonlands and part of the Colorado River to the Glen Canyon border to the West. Within the boundaries of this new National Park we have Natural Bridges National Monument, Cedar Mesa, Indian Creek, the Abajo Mountains, and the sacred Bears Ears Buttes. Thanks to this new National Monument, all of this land will now be protected! This is a huge win for the Native Americans, environmentalists, recreationalists, and others who love the Southern Utah landscape.
With Bears Ears National Monument in place people will still be able to use it for recreational purposes such as authorized hunting, fishing, climbing, camping, mountain biking, backpacking, and floating down the gorgeous San Juan river. Recreation is something that Utah loves, and it creates a great profit for this state. Recreation creates twelve billion dollars in consumer spending and around 122,000 direct jobs for Utah. Below is a link to a website showing how recreation affects Utah financially.
Bears Ears National Monument is a profitable attribute for Utah. This National Monument protects a lot of very fragile yet gorgeous landscapes that numerous people believe should not be shoved aside for oil, gas, and mining production. Since the Bears Ears debate many major environmentalist groups have become involved. The Leonardo DiCaprio foundation have donated 15.6 million dollars and the Hewlett and Packard foundations have put in 20 million. Major recreation companies such as Patagonia and Black Diamond have given the Utah government a harsh reality check by pulling out of our Outdoor Retailer show claiming that Utah is putting money in front of the environment and that they will not participate in this hypocrisy. A quote from Patagonia states that, “Because of the hostile environment they have created, and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah”. Oil, gas, and the mining production take a major toll on the environment. With an environment as unique as Southern Utah, I would hope that we choose to protect it rather than degrade the landscape.
“Big money, environmentalists and the Bears Ears story.” Mike Lee for Senate. N.p., 10 Aug. 2016. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.
“Cultural & Archaelogical Significance.” Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. N.p.n.d. Web. 27 Mar.2017.
“Five Reasons Bears Ears Needs to be Protected as a National Monument.” The Cleanest Line. N.p., 11 Jan. 2017. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.
Onion, Rebecca, and Claudio Saunt. “Interactive Time-Lapse Map Shows How the U.S. Took More Than 1.5 Billion Acres From Native Americans.” Slate Magazine. N.p., 17 June 2014. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.
Standard-Examiner. “The Bears Ears National Monument designation debate, explained.” Standard-Examiner. N.p., 29 Dec. 2016. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.