Updated June 12 Defending Bears Ears
Home to ancient cliff dwellings, Native American cultural sites, and iconic wildlife, Bears Ears National Monument is a national treasure. The monument stretches across remarkably scenic mesas, towering sandstone cliffs, and canyons that epitomize the beauty of southern Utah. Bears, bighorn sheep and mountain lions thrive in this striking wilderness. Two buttes jutting thousands of feet above canyon lands form the region’s namesake, “Bears Ears.”
In 2016, President Obama designated the Bears Ears National Monument after years of advocacy from a historic partnership between the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni governments, along with archeological, conservation, and recreation voices.
But now, as anti-environment extremists in Congress mount attacks to open up protected public lands to extractive industries or sell off acres of our heritage, President Trump and certain members of Congress are collaborating to unravel protections for the Bears Ears National Monument lands that are sacred to five sovereign tribes. Oil and uranium interests threaten these lands, along with the looting and robbing of sacred sites.
The designation of Bears Ears National Monument included a historic plan for co-management of this unique landscape by federal agencies and the five tribes with sacred cultural interests in the lands. Now, these protected lands are under attack. Earthjustice stands with the tribes in their calls for justice.
These mesas, cliffs, and canyons in Utah are home to over 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites, with some dating back to 12,000 B.C.E. Tribes continue to visit these lands to hold ceremonies and to connect with their ancestors.
To protect Bears Ears, President Obama used the Antiquities Act, a century-old law established to protect America’s iconic lands and cultural heritage. The Antiquities Act has been embraced by 16 presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to President Obama to protect national treasures such as the Grand Canyon, the Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the Giant Sequoia National Monument in Northern California, and the Statue of Liberty.
In an op-ed in TIME Magazine, McIntosh went on to explain, “President Trump and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke should honor the tribes, respect the unique importance of Bears Ears, and reject short-sighted, politically-motivated demands for its reversal. It fact, it is their only lawful option. The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes presidents to designate national monuments, but it does not give presidents the power to reverse the monuments created by their predecessors.”
We cannot let this assault on our public lands stand. Bears Ears National Monument—and the more than one hundred others—are part of what make this land great.