Opponents of Bears Ears monument blame badgers for looting and grave robbing

No, really.

Utah state Rep. Mike Noel and badger

Faced with overwhelming proof that archaeological sites in Utah’s Bears Ears region are being raided and destroyed by looters, vandals, and grave robbers, people opposed to protecting the area’s cultural heritage have a new explanation: badgers.

Utah state Representative Mike Noel floated the theory to the Salt Lake Tribune today:

“There is no fresh digging. All we can see today are badger holes. We have to get a handle on these badgers because those little suckers are going down and digging up artifacts and sticking them in their holes.”

Noel’s explanation would be laughable if it wasn’t also so insidious. Noel, a notorious opponent of national public lands, appears to be claiming with a straight face that animals have learned to:

Operate a rock saw to steal petroglyphs.

Friends of Cedar Mesa

Spell (and carve) “F**K YOU BLM” into rocks.

Friends of Cedar Mesa

And shoot firearms into petroglyphs.

Friends of Cedar Mesa

Scientists, needless to say, don’t buy the badger theory. That’s why 700 archaeologists just signed a letter urging President Obama to protect Bears Ears from the immediate threat posed by looters and grave robbers. As Popular Archaeology noted, “With more than 100,000 archaeological sites, the Bears Ears region is America’s most significant unprotected cultural landscape.”

Utah Representatives Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz continue to delay their long-promised and widely panned Public Lands Initiative, which has yet to be introduced in congress, much less taken up before a committee in either the House or Senate. With the legislative calendar running out of time in 2016, the chances of congress doing anything to protect Bears Ears dwindle by the day.

Faced with the Utah delegation’s inaction on Bears Ears, it’s incumbent on President Obama to use the Antiquities Act to protect these sites and stop the looting — because badgers can’t spell.