A Sacred Landscape In Urgent Need of Protection
Important Note: When we outlined our Citizen Proposal For Protection in early 2014, we were identifying a core area in desperate need of immediate protection. Since then, we have thrown our support behind protecting the Bears Ears Cultural Landscape. While we still see the greater Cedar Mesa area as the most crucial area to protect, we strongly support protecting the surrounding landscape. You can learn all about the proposal at the Bears Ears Coalition website.
Objective: To create a special management area with staff, resources and polices meant to preserve the region’s unique cultural resources, history, archaeology, scenery, wildlife, and opportunities for solitude. This would ideally take the form of a National Conservation Area, with designated wilderness. However, a National Monument may be needed to protect the area if Congress cannot act in a timely manner.
Boundary Definition: Rather than using arbitrary agency boundaries or roads, FCM proposes an area defined by geography and a shared density of cultural sites and unique scenic value. In general, this area spans from the Elk Ridge on the north to the San Juan River on the south and from Clay Hills on the west to Cottonwood Wash on the east. These boundaries are not exact and would need to be field checked should NCA legislation on National Monument designation move forward.
Size: Approximately 700,000 acres. Significant thought has gone into creating an area of manageable size, which could be stewarded from a single office, with a reasonable sized staff.
Prehistoric and Historic Site Protection: The Cedar Mesa area is indeed a sacred place to many people, including several Native American tribes. The primary focus of management should be protecting the estimated 56,000 cultural/archaeological sites in the area, as well as the important historical resources, especially the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail.
Scenery and Backcountry Experience Preservation: Perhaps nowhere else can visitors find so many well preserved prehistoric cultural sites in such a dramatic and beautiful setting, which still offers solitude, quiet, and an escape from modern interruptions. NCA/NM management should focus on preserving the solitude and natural beauty of this place for our children and grandchildren.
Wilderness: Within the boundaries, approximately 500,000 acres have been identified by various groups as having wilderness character. This includes a core of four Wilderness Study areas (Grand Gulch, Road Canyon, Fish Creek, and Mule Canyon WSAs), as well as US Forest Service Roadless Areas. Friends of Cedar Mesa encourages a thoughtful process of designating wilderness within the NCA/NM that takes into consideration traditional uses and potential conflicts between wilderness and other uses.
State Lands: FCM envisions trading out state lands in the area for parcels in areas more suitable for development. The current patchwork of jurisdictions is not conducive to good protection for cultural resources.
Roads: With few exceptions, Friends of Cedar Mesa supports the current BLM, NPS, and USFS travel plans for the area and would not support significant access restrictions or openings beyond those plans.
Woodcutting and Grazing: While FCM advocates for better management of grazing and woodcutting to protect cultural resources, we would envision these traditional uses continuing. Grazing improvements on state lands could be grandfathered on federal lands. Some setbacks from wilderness areas could allow for continued woodcutting near existing roads.
Energy Development: Although limited energy development may occur within the area, this kind of industrialization is inconsistent with the natural and archaeological richness of the area. As such, supports a mineral withdrawl from the area and encourages development to be concentrated in other areas of San Juan CO and Utah.