Skip to main content
First light over Cedar Mesa in southeast Utah, Bears Ears National Monument.

First light over Cedar Mesa in southeast Utah, Bears Ears National Monument. (Photo by Mason Cummings / TWS)

Defending Bears Ears
National Monument

Map of Bears Ears National Monument.
“What is sacred cannot be reversed.”
– James Adakai President of the Navajo’s Oljato Chapter and member of the Bears Ears Commission

Protecting Bears Ears National Monument

Map of Bears Ears National Monument.
“What is sacred cannot be reversed.”
– James Adakai President of the Navajo’s Olijato Chapter and member of the Bears Ears Commission
Photo by Mason Cummings / TWS
First light over Cedar Mesa in southeast Utah, Bears Ears National Monument.
Update, Apr. 26: President Trump issued an order to the Department of the Interior to review national monuments designated between 1996 and 2017 over 100,000 acres in size. Trump is instigating an investigation into some of the nation’s most cherished lands and waters. According to Secretary Zinke, the review will lead to a report on Bears Ears National Monument in 45 days and a larger report on national monuments in 120 days, though it remains unclear what concrete recommendations for action those reports will make.

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.”

Bears Ears Buttes, Bears Ears National Monument.
Mason Cummings / TWS
Bears Ears Buttes, Bears Ears National Monument.

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.

“We’ve roamed this country since the beginning. Our creation story never begins any place else.”
– Shaun Chapoose Chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committe
Listen to Shaun Chapoose (left) and Oljato Chapter President James Adakai speak at the Bears Ears Celebration on Feb. 6, 2017. Learn more about the Bears Ears Inter-tribal Coalition.

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.

Bears Ears National Monument.
Mason Cummings / TWS
Bears Ears National Monument.
Bears Ears National Monument.
Mason Cummings / TWS
Mule Canyon, WSA. Bears Ears National Monument.
Bears Ears National Monument.
Marc Toso
Bears Ears National Monument.

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.

Never in our nation’s history has a president reversed a national monument designation.
Bears Ears National Monument.
Mason Cummings / TWS
Valley of the Gods. Bears Ears National Monument.
Bears Ears National Monument.
Mason Cummings / TWS
Bears Ears National Monument.
Bears Ears National Monument.
Mason Cummings / TWS
Bears Ears National Monument.
An attack on one national monument is an attack on them all.

We cannot let this assault on our public lands stand. Earthjustice is fighting to preserve Bears Ears National Monument, one of our youngest national monuments designated to protect some of our most ancient cultural heritage. Will you join us?