History Made … Sigh of Relief!
What a campaign it has been. After years of collaborative work between Native American Tribes, archaeologists, conservation organizations and enthusiastic supporters, the Bears Ears cultural landscape was finally protected. The 1.35 million-acre National Monument was created just a few days before the end of 2016 on December 28.
We’d been working for two years with law enforcement from various land management agencies to create a Reward Fund for looting and vandalism incidents when we heard of two more devastating incidents in early 2016: a rogue ATV rider who rode rampant over a Pueblo II site and an attempt to remove Basketmaker rock art with a rock saw. By May, we were ready to launch our $2500 Reward Fund in tandem with our Cultural Resource Defense Campaign. We are grateful for the support of the BLM, NPS and SITLA in making this reward fund a possible tool for deterring illegal activity. Supporters put up $8,000 for our Defense Campaign, but we have much more work to do. You can make a contribution to the reward fund and our monitoring programs today.3
By our estimate, 1,400 people gathered in Bluff on a sweltering Saturday in July to share their perspectives on protecting Bears Ears with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. The Secretary was joined by Robert Bonnie, Undersecretary of the US Department of Agriculture, BLM Director Neil Kornze, Park Service Director John Jarvis, and Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Roberts. Bluff provided a warm welcome to our visitors for the 4-hour listening session where almost everyone who spoke agreed: this area deserves protection.4
New staff member Marcia Simonis to kickstarts Statewide Site Steward Program
This July, former Board Member and educator Marcia Simonis joined our staff as the Statewide Site Steward Program Coordinator for all of Utah. Marcia’s position is a partnership with the Utah BLM to develop and expand site steward monitoring programs for diverse audiences across the state. For the latest on Marcia’s work and the program, read her December report.
On October 19, there was a ripple of broken hearts through Bluff and the greater community with connections to Comb Ridge when a 391-acre parcel of it was sold at auction. The private buyer, Lyman Family Farms, outbid conservation buyers at a SITLA auction. This land should never have been on the chopping block, and this sad tale shows what happens when lands that should be public are sold to the highest bidder.
The news of 3 new oil wells on the Bluff Bench inside the original area proposed for protect by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition galvanized the Bluff community in support of the National Monument. Together with the Bluff community and Bluff elected officials, we wrote letters, scheduled meetings and traveled to DC to learn more about the proposed BLM well applications and SITLA well and express our concerns that this proposed drilling is a direct threat to Bluff’s water and tourism-based economy. The fight is far from over, as much of the Bluff Bench was excluded from the new National Monument.
We had always favored a legislative solution for protecting Cedar Mesa. However, after working on the Public Lands Initiative process for three years, the PLI was introduced into the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and with far too many “poison pills” and last minute changes that forced us to oppose the legislation. With Congress wrapping up the 2016 session without protecting Cedar Mesa, we turned our hopes and efforts to President Obama and a National Monument.
Rock Art exhibit opens at Kane Gulch Ranger Station
If you haven’t yet checked out the new world-class rock art exhibit at Kane Gulch, make this a priority for 2017. The new exhibit at the Ranger Station on Cedar Mesa spans thousands of years of rock stories and goes into a level of fascinating detail that will please any archaeology nerd (like us!) This exhibit was made possible by our generous donors and a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Grand Gulch rock art recording project
In early September, a group of rock art buffs hiked into Grand Gulch with rock art expert Sally Cole to record two rock art panels with significant Basketmaker rock art. The cool part? We’re going to do more backcountry recording projects in the future!
BLM Launches Respect & Protect Program with support of FCM
Many cultural resource protection voices showed their support across Utah when the BLM launched the Respect & Protect campaign. The messaging and tools in this campaign will be used throughout the state to promote awareness and conservation of Utah’s archaeological and paleontological heritage. We’re excited to tier our Visit with Respect initiative campaign to the Respect & Protect campaign on current and future projects.
Best attended Celebrate Cedar Mesa
At our biggest Celebrate event yet, most attendees agree the highlight was the Native American Perspectives on Bears Ears Panel. We hope to see you at the 2017 Celebrate Cedar Mesa March 3-5 for a keynote by Craig Child, presentations, hikes, live music by Wake Up Laughing and more.12
817 Service Hours on the landscape
Our service projects took us all over San Juan County this year: Elk Ridge, Cedar Mesa, Muley Point and the lands around Bluff. Many thanks to our many volunteers who put in some time and got their hands dirty.
It’s been quite the year for Friends of Cedar Mesa and our strong network of supporters. Read about our accomplishments in our 2016 Year End Wrap-Up, and see what we’re looking forward to in 2017!