FCM Board of Directors stands with Executive Director

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An inadvertent and unfortunate error from a private email gone public touched off an unwarranted controversy. The errant email gave the appearance of a lack of support for our Executive Director, Josh Ewing.  This is absolutely false.  The Board of Directors of Friends of Cedar Mesa has full confidence in Josh Ewing as our Executive Director. He is a leader who has and will continue to advance the protection, appreciation, and respect for Cedar Mesa and sacred lands of Bears Ears National Monument.  He is heading our legal efforts in conjunction with key allies to sue the Trump Administration to strike down the President’s extreme overreach of authority in revoking the Bears Ears National Monument. Josh continues to lead a talented and hardworking team that is helping visitors understand the extraordinary significance of Cedar Mesa and Bears Ears as a remarkable cultural landscape. These are challenging times and moving past undeserved distractions we stand with Josh Ewing as a board and as an organization.

Friends of Cedar Mesa
Volunteer Board of Directors
December 7, 2017

Trump erases 1.1 million acres of Bears Ears National Monument

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Trump erases 1.1 million acres of Bears Ears National Monument

We’re more resolved than ever. Will you stand with us?

We’ve been bracing for this news since June, when a report by the Interior Secretary suggested large portions of the Bears Ears cultural landscape would be erased from protection as a National Monument. So, today’s action by President Trump is no surprise. Making good on his political promises, the President signed a proclamation that attempts to eviscerate more than 1.1 million of Bears Ears National Monument, an 85% reduction. This dramatic attack includes almost all of Cedar Mesa, the crown jewel of Bears Ears archaeology.

A three-story tower from the 1200s in Beef Basin. This is just one of thousands of archaeological sites, true antiquities, proposed to be removed from National Monument protection.

We outline below the places, archaeology, and recreation that will be removed from protection, at least until the courts determine this attempt is illegal. Also below is our Executive Director’s press statement.

No one ever said protecting the Bears Ears cultural landscape would be easy, and now is not the time to lose heart. The attacks on Bears Ears were to be expected given the extreme anti-federal government ideology currently in favor in Utah politics. What’s less obvious is that this news is a direct attack on the Antiquities Act, the bedrock conservation law that’s been used to protect many iconic American landscapes, like Grand Canyon, Zion, and Arches – all of which were unpopular locally when they were first protected.

We’re confident that the facts on the ground mean we’re on the right side of history. There’s no better place to take a stand for conservation and the Antiquities Act than Bears Ears. It’s exactly the kind of place the Act was designed to protect, despite the politics. And if we win this one, it’ll be a foundation to protect all national monuments for generations to come!

With all of this at stake, we are more resolved than ever to be the local stewards to protect this landscape – with service, with statesmanship, and with persistence – on the ground, in the courts and in the halls of Congress.

We’re ready, and we’re committed for the long haul.  We count ourselves fortunate to have one of the most respected law firms in the world, Hogan Lovells, to be representing us (along with our partner organizations) in this historic fight to protect Bears Ears and the Antiquities Act. We anticipate the legal battle to be a lengthy one, and the experience of the Hogan Lovells team will be critical to our eventual success.

Will you stand with us? This news means our fight to preserve this landscape will be a long one, requiring endurance, commitment, and lots of hard work. Huge portions of the greater Cedar Mesa area have been removed from the Monument, but that doesn’t mean visitors won’t keep coming. In fact, all the controversy guarantees visitation will continue to skyrocket. We’re stepping up to this challenge with our Bears Ears Visit with Respect Education Center, which we hope you’ll support. It’s something positive and proactive we can do while the legal fight plays out over the next several years.

President Trump is attempting to erase National Monument protection for several key regions of the Bears Ears – areas of rich scientific, historic, cultural, archaeological and recreational significance – landscapes that hold great spiritual and traditional importance for sovereign Native American nations. In fact, in the Proclamation is says many of the following areas are “are not of significant scientific or historic interest.”

A quick summary of the areas excluded from Monument protection include:

  • Almost all of Cedar Mesa, including Grand Gulch: The crown jewel of Bears Ears and the most famous archaeological areas in the Monument.
  • Tank Mesa, Cottonwood Wash and the Bluff Bench: Ancient Ancestral Pueblo great roads, rich Ute/Navajo archaeology, Bluff’s watershed, and scenic southern entrance to the Monument.
  • White Canyon and Mossback Butte area: World-class canyoneering, fascinating geology, newly discovered paleontological resources, and rich archaeology.
  • Abajo Mountains, Allen Canyon, and North Elk Ridge: Wild and pristine watershed, critical wildlife habitat, sacred hunting grounds for Ute and Navajo peoples and impressive archaeology.
  • Lockhart Basin and Harts Draw: Popular long-haul mountain biking routes, incredible geology, beautiful rock art, hundreds of climbing routes, and the eastern viewshed of Canyonlands National Park.
  • Dark Canyon Plateau and Beef Basin: Dense archaeology, critical wildlife habitat and southern viewshed of Canyonlands National Park.
  • Valley of the Gods: Dramatic sandstone spires and beautiful vistas, including 22 climbing summits and important archaeology.

It’s worth noting that these areas left unprotected are in addition to the more than a half million acres proposed for protection by the Tribes that were left out of the Bears Ears National Monument by the Obama Administration.

In response to President Trump’s executive action, Friends of Cedar Mesa Executive Director Josh Ewing issued the following statement.

“Based in Bluff, Utah, we at Friends of Cedar Mesa are blessed to be able to look out our front door and see the Bears Ears National Monument. We and the Bluff community are strong local supporters of the Monument and have first-hand experience in the backcountry throughout the Bears Ears.

Despite Secretary Zinke’s rhetoric that he believes this area is ’drop dead gorgeous‘ and all the politicians that say Bears Ears should be preserved, President Trump’s action leaves many places of enormous scientific, historic, spiritual, and recreational value unprotected and open for exploitation by out-of-state extractive corporations.

We are disappointed that the Secretary and President ignored the detailed information we provided them about the wide distribution of archaeology throughout the Bears Ears National Monument. Now, the President has taken an action that is both illegal and immoral – removing protection from objects of scientific and historic value protected by President Obama’s proclamation.

This recommendation shows great disrespect for the international significance of the Bears Ears area – for Native American Tribes, for American history, and for recreation. Bears Ears is exactly the kind of cultural landscape – filled with real antiquities that are inextricably connected with their surroundings – that the Antiquities Act was created to protect. 

We believe this move to erase protections and consequentially open large areas of Bears Ears to industrialization is unlawful and irresponsible. We will utilize all tools available to protect this landscape – everything from opening a Bears Ears Visit with Respect Education Center to on-the-ground education/monitoring and defending the Bears Ears National Monument in court.

Removing National Monument protections for these key parts of the Bears Ears without replacing them with any practical alternative will only lead to more damage to the archaeological and natural resources of this internationally significant area. Visitation to Bears Ears has been dramatically increasing over the last decade, and the recent controversy only guarantees this trend will continue. We are concerned the President’s action will only further delay much-needed visitor management and cultural resource protections while resolution of this issue languishes in the courts.”

Bears Ears Visit with Respect Education Center

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Bears Ears Visit with Respect Education Center

Contribute to the Bears Ears Visit with Respect Education Center!

Our most ambitious project ever needs your support!

FCM is excited to announce our most ambitious project ever: a proactive & positive solution we think everyone can get behind. As you likely know, visitation to the Monument area has been growing significantly over the last decade, increasing exponentially with the recent controversy – all without corresponding government resources for visitor education.

Rather than complaining about it, we’re stepping up to create the Bears Ears Visit with Respect Education Center. It’s an audaciously aspirational effort that will require us to raise $840,000 in the next six months. Our goal is to provide friendly visitor guidance to many of the new visitors coming to Bears Ears – resulting in reduced visitor impacts and visitors gaining a real appreciation for why this internationally significant landscape is worth protecting forever.


Why is Bears Ears so important?

The Bears Ears National Monument is an internationally significant cultural landscape and a pivotal place in American conservation. Bears Ears is at the forefront of significant national debate about the Antiquities Act, landscape scale protection, preservation of American history, and Native American rights.

Bears Ears is the first national monument specifically created at the request of a coalition of indigenous tribes seeking to preserve ancestral lands, cultural sites, and ongoing traditional uses. These are sacred lands that contain places of immense spiritual importance to many Native American people.

The Monument protects more than 100,000 archaeological sites. In fact, Bears Ears has more cultural sites than any other US National Park or National Monument. These are fragile resources that require special visitor education to ensure they are preserved.

Bears Ears is also home to world-class recreation, including backpacking, hiking, climbing, paddling, and canyoneering. The stunning scenery combined with intriguing archaeology and recreational opportunities draws visitors from around the world.

In a very real way, the future of Bears Ears is critical to the future of American conservation. This monument is the epitome of what the Antiquities Act was created to protect. If Bears Ears is defended and its management is successful, all future and current monuments will benefit, while also elevating Native American people in the management of public lands. By contrast, if the Monument’s resources are denigrated due to a lack of educational resources, conservation will be given a black eye for generations. If we truly believe in protecting these lands, we need to take ownership of the on-the-ground education needed for real preservation.

The challenge of under-educated or careless visitors

In the decade prior to 2015, visitation to the Bears Ears area easily doubled and likely tripled, without corresponding increases in resources for visitor management and education. Since then, no National Monument in history has ever received more publicity due to the significant controversy generated by Utah politicians. This continuing debate continues to thrust the area into the news.

Proactive Solution: Bears Ears Visit with Respect Center

While the political and legal fight over Bears Ears will play out slowly over the next decade, the biggest threat to the monument’s archaeological resources requires urgent, immediate action. We simply cannot wait for politicians to solve the visitor education crisis.

Transforming a historic bar into a community-powered visitor center

Friends of Cedar Mesa is working to have a functional visitor center open in Bluff for the Spring 2018 visitor season. The first step is to purchase a historic bar, which is conveniently located on Highway 191. Ironically, the bar was frequented by uranium miners in the 1950s & 1960s. FCM has the building under contract, with an option to purchase the property that expires December 31st. After purchase, we’ll need significant funds to renovate the space and get it visitor ready.

Bluff, the Gateway to Bears Ears

For decades, Bluff has been the gateway for responsible exploration of the Bears Ears area. The town supports protection and is conveniently located close to tribal partners. It’s the perfect place to interact with visitors and it is home to one of the few buildings in southeast Utah than can be quickly transformed into a visitor center.

Friends of Cedar Mesa: Our backyard needs your help

Friends of Cedar Mesa is uniquely positioned to open the Visit with Respect Center because of our on-the ground knowledge of local archaeology, our keen awareness of the impacts occurring from visitation, and the Visit with Respect education tools we’ve developed in response. But we’re also a small non-profit based in a tiny town of 100 people. We need support from far and wide to make this center a reality and ensure the Bears Ears National Monument is a success.

Inspiring respect for the sacred

Teaching tourists the specifics of how to visit archaeological sites and the land with respect is critical. Bears Ears is not a playground, and special care is needed, beyond basic Leave No Trace principles, to preserve such a sensitive cultural landscape. FCM has developed a first-of-its-kind Visit with Respect tool kit to teach visitors these behaviors.

However, we know we cannot simply tell visitors what to do without providing them with what they want – valuable information about how to enjoy the monument, where to go, and why the area is so sacred to the Native American tribes who worked together to see the area protected.

To accomplish this, Friends of Cedar Mesa plans to work with the Bears Ears Tribal Commission to give the tribes a voice in telling the story of the monument and inspiring visitors to respect. As such, a significant part of the project budget is funding for interpretive displays and materials.

The Visit with Respect Center will employ volunteers, interns, and students to a high degree. The building will also provide much needed office space for the growing FCM team. Having our offices co-located with visitor center will ensure educational efforts are fully integrated with other FCM programs. The Center will also be a great venue for hosting educational events, lectures, and presentations to inform the public.

Contribute to the Bears Ears Visit with Respect Education Center!

Please send checks, with memo clearly marked “Education Center” to PO Box 338, Bluff, UT  84512 or use the below form to donate securely online.

Cave Towers Volunteer Project Nov. 19

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Cave Towers Volunteer Project Nov. 19

Volunteer to Protect Cave Towers

Sunday, November 19, 2017 – Cedar Mesa, UT

Over the past few months, the Acoma Pueblo Conservation Corps, FCM volunteers and Woods Canyon Archaeological Consultants have been putting in some serious time and energy to survey and stabilize the Cave Towers archaeological site on SITLA land.

The trouble is, stray cattle can make their way into the site and undo all the hard work that’s been done to preserve this cultural site. We are looking for a group of volunteers to help build buck and rail fence at Cave Towers to help protect the site from inadvertent damage caused by cattle.

Part of this service project will be strenuous, involving heavy lifting. However, we can accommodate any and all volunteer needs at this fun project on the landscape. Please bring lunch, water, warm & rain layers, closed toed shoes and work gloves. We will be meeting at the Bluff Community Center at 9 am and at Cave Towers at 10 am. Sign up for the project below.

Why we’re going to court to defend Bears Ears

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Why we’re going to court to defend Bears Ears

Suing the President of the United States – that’s a big step for our little organization. We’ve never litigated against anyone before, and it’s an absolute last resort. Why are we doing it? Well, this video probably explains it better than any words could:

ERASED: Trump’s cuts to Bears Ears in 100 photos from Friends of Cedar Mesa on Vimeo.

We always look to collaborate first, second and third. We believe we don’t always have to agree on every issue to be Friends, to work together, and put aside our differences. We’re geared toward practical solutions and compromise.

In fact, we worked toward a legislative solution for years before it became clear a legitimate bill protecting the greater Cedar Mesa area just wasn’t going to happen in Congress. We’ve always said we’d be there anywhere, any time there was an honest and earnest discussion about how to protect the Bears Ears region in a reasonable and practical way. We never said a Monument was the only way or even the best way to protect this area.

But what do you do when no one will even sit down with you in a legitimate effort to find common ground? It wasn’t like anyone really consulted us on the monumentally bad decision to leave 1.1 million acres of one of the world’s most important cultural landscapes unprotected and open to oil/gas drilling and uranium mining. Promises that Congress might one day actually do something to protect the area just aren’t enough.

So, we’re going to court to defend Bears Ears, Cedar Mesa, Grand Gulch, Bluff’s watershed, and so many other remarkable places that should be preserved forever. It’s just not in the realm of reasonable that one president should be able to cut 1.1 million acres of protected lands, representing 85% of the monument that another president thoughtfully protected.

We are very grateful for the pro-bono services of Hogan Lovells, an internationally recognized law firm with the resources, expertise, and experience to see this long fight through to the end and win. We are also grateful for our partners in this lawsuit who all bring deep passion and commitment to protecting Bears Ears. Our co-litigants include Utah Diné Bikéyah, Archaeology Southwest, Conservation Lands Foundation, Access Fund, the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, National Trust for Historic Preservation and business champion Patagonia Works. If you have interest, you can read our joint press release on the lawsuit.

Bears Ears is exactly the kind of place the Antiquities Act was meant to protect. And there’s no better place to defend the Antiquities Act than at Bears Ears.

But this fight will be a long one, with publicity that only guarantees that visitation, without government resources to deal with it, will continue to increase. That’s why we need your ongoing support so we can continue our work on the ground collaborating with federal agencies and ensuring resources are protected through visitor education. If you haven’t already, please join us in doing something positive and proactive while all this plays out in court. Please support the Bears Ears Visit with Respect Education Center today!

USFS Upper Cottonwood Recording Project

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USFS Upper Cottonwood Recording Project

Join USFS and FCM to record sites in Upper Cottonwood!

When: October 24th-25th

Where: Upper Cottonwood, Bears Ears National Monument

Join USFS and FCM for two days of site recording in Upper Cottonwood! We will spend one night car camping in Bears Ears National Monument as we record archeological surface sites.

Preference is given to volunteers that commit to both days. Space is limited.


National Public Lands Day 2017

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National Public Lands Day 2017

Join FCM and BLM to support public lands!

When: September 30th, 9:00am 

Where: Montezuma Canyon

Join FCM and BLM for a day of service! We will be working on two projects for NPLD 2017. Some volunteers will install buck and rail fencing at two nearby archeological sites in Montezuma Canyon to protect against ongoing and potential cattle damage. Other volunteers will work to remove the existing chain link fence and haul it away.

We will meet at the Clark’s Market grocery store in Blanding, Utah at 9:00am

Space is limited so sign up now!

Threatened: Access to Public Lands in Cottonwood Wash

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Threatened: Access to Public Lands in Cottonwood Wash

Public Access to Bears Ears Threatened near Bluff

Voice your concerns! – September 19th, 11:30 am, Community Hideout Center, Monticello

250 ft of County Road B2721 and all of County Road D5036 are proposed for closure.

Friends of Cedar Mesa and the community of public lands users in San Juan County has recently learned that a private land owner has requested that San Juan County close two public county roads in southeast Utah that allow access to the Bears Ears National Monument. The two roads, a segment of B2721 (approx. 250 feet in length) and D5036, pass through private land to allow access from Bluff to South Cottonwood Wash, which is in the national monument.

For decades, many Bluff residents and visitors have enjoyed morning strolls and afternoon walks up Cottonwood Wash. South Cottonwood Wash is a critical access point for non-motorized access to public lands. These scenic and culturally rich lands should not be transformed into the exclusive backyard for private property owners. Closing these roads will literally lock out the public and diminish recreational opportunities for Bluff residents. Closing, or “vacating” these roads is a move to reduce access to our public lands.

This is about private individuals locking up public lands – and we will not stand for it.

Defend public access to Cottonwood Wash

This decision will affect many public lands users. Join FCM at the public hearing in Monticello, Utah on September 19 at 11:30 am in telling  San Juan County that these roads should remain open.

Click here for directions to the Hideout Community Center in Monticello.

How can you help?

  • Attend the public hearing on September 19th
  • Write to the address below or email by September 15th and tell them you do not support the vacation of county roads B2721 and D5036 because they are critical to public lands access.
    • San Juan County Public Lands Department
      Attention: Nick Sandberg
      P.O. Box 9
      Monticello, Utah 84535
  • Share with another public lands enthusiast!

New lease sale threatens rich archaeological areas

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New lease sale threatens rich archaeological areas

BLM Proposes Leasing Highly Sensitive Archaeological Areas for Drilling

Share your expertise with FCM & BLM

Unrecorded rock art site in one of the proposed lease parcels.

The BLM recently proposed leasing more than 57,000 acres of public lands in San Juan and Grand Counties for oil and gas development at an auction to be held in March of 2018. Some of these parecels include dense areas of archaeology, including multiple Chaco outlier great houses, thousands of recorded and unrecorded smaller sites, and incredible rock art panels. Several of the largest archaeological sites in Utah are included in the proposed lease parcels. In fact, this sale may include more archaeological sites than any lease sale in the modern history of the BLM, with the possible exception of a proposed 2015 sale where parcels were deferred on cultural resource grounds pending development of the proposed San Juan Master Leasing Plan (MLP).

The Three Kiva Pueblo site is a public site the BLM has proposed for a developed recreation area. But it’s also in the proposed lease sale.

We are now told this “smart from the start” MLP planning effort is unlikely to be developed under the current Administration. This is highly disapointing news, as FCM believes oil and gas development can be pursued in a responsible manner, creating a win-win for industry and archaeology, but only if planning is done strategically on a landscape scale, not one drilling permit at a time.

We are early in the process for this lease sale and the BLM is asking the public for “scoping” comments to help them formulate issues for their Environmental Assessment. In a Salt Lake Tribune article about the sale, a BLM spokeswoman said, “As part of public scoping, people are invited to come forward with knowledge or concerns about these parcels​, so they can be addressed. A robust analysis is key to making well-reasoned decisions about whether it is appropriate to lease these parcels.”

Cliff dwellings line many of the canyons included in the proposed drilling area.

Included in the proposed lease areas are protions of Recapture Canyon (currently closed to vehicles), Alkalai Ridge, Montezuma Canyon, and a small portion of the San Juan River corridor, as well as many lesser known areas. You can see the BLM’s documents and maps about the sale here. FCM has prepared a larger, more detailed maps. See the northern zone here and the southern zone here.

Friends of Cedar Mesa is preparing a robust response to this proposed sale. If you’re willing to share your knowledge of the area with us, please contact We also encourage you to submit comments to the BLM in the scoping process here. The deadline for comments is July 27, 2017.

Visit with Respect educational offerings

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Visit with Respect educational offerings

“Hmmm, I’m bringing my group to explore the archaeologically rich Bears Ears National Monument. What should I tell them about how to be good visitors?”

You decided to bring a group to Bears Ears National Monument, great! And you want to know how to visit with respect, awesome! We would love to help teach your group the concepts of careful visitation to the area’s cultural and natural resources. Our staff offers a variety of fun, informational and engaging educational programs, tailored to your group’s age and needs. With flexibility on timing and location, and at no cost to your group, what are you waiting for? Contact Erica to enquire about dates and programs that would best fit your group.

Visit with Respect orientation– 1 hour

An orientation to the public lands of the area, with games, skits and discussions to practice the concepts of Visit with Respect. Great for all ages, and perfect for groups new to exploring ancient sites.

Photo by Corey Robinson

Visit with Respect campfire talk– 1 hour

Fun for a group wanting a laidback yet engaging introduction to the public lands and archaeology of the area, and how to visit with respect. Designed to occur at your camp, you provide the fire ring and wood (s’mores optional)!

Visit with Respect slideshow – 1 hour

If you have an indoor space and are looking for a larger group orientation, this more formal PowerPoint presentation may fit the bill! Enjoy beautiful images of the area and suggestions for how you can protect it.

Videos online

Check out our short, light and fun videos, designed to show you and your group why this area is worth visiting with respect. Watch them in advance of your trip from the comfort of your home or classroom.

Visit with Respect logos and icons

Our Visit with Respect information and icons are meant to be broadly shared. Contact Erica if you’d like files of our videos, icons, and products.