Bears Ears. History Made. History Preserved.
***For official Friends of Cedar Mesa press release, click here***
Today marks a historic moment in the protection of the rich archaeological and natural wonders of the greater Cedar Mesa area. One hundred and thirteen years after archaeologist T. Mitchel Prudden called for protection of southeastern Utah’s antiquities much of an internationally significant cultural landscape will now be protected as the Bears Ears National Monument.
Utilizing the power delegated to him by Congress under the Antiquities Act, President Obama has signed a proclamation to designate a Bears Ears National Monument that contains tens of thousands of archaeological sites. In fact, the Bears Ears Monument now contains more cultural resources than any other National Monument or National Park in the United States. There’s no place more deserving or needing of protection, and it surely would have been protected many years ago if it were located anywhere but Utah. This is the place that the Antiquities Act was made to protect!
The 1.35 million-acre Monument is very similar to those proposed for National Conservation Area (NCA) or Wilderness designation in the Public Lands Initiative (PLI) legislation, which had almost unanimous support from Utah politicians but had no chance of gaining the bi-partisan support needed to pass Congress due to many “poison pills” that would have decreased protection for cultural resources on the ground. Lands in San Juan County proposed for protection in the PLI cover Cedar Mesa, Comb Ridge, Valley of the Gods, the Bears Ears Buttes and the Indian Creek corridor.
While the Monument will by no means protect all the most significant archaeology of southeastern Utah – the Bluff area where Friends of Cedar Mesa is headquartered will not be completely protected – it is a huge step in recognizing the historic and scientific value of an area considered sacred by many Native American Tribes and Pueblos and loved by recreationists from around the world.
Unquestionable visual evidence that Bears Ears is deserving of protection for future generations.
We are enormously grateful for the leadership and engagement by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition – an unprecedented partnership of Navajo, Ute, Hopi and Zuni leaders who put aside other differences to find common ground in protecting Native homelands. The language of the President’s proclamation also includes strong language elevating the role of Tribes and Pueblos in management of lands so clearly linked to the cultural traditions and history of Native American peoples.
The proclamation guides the future management of the area and includes strong provisions for access and traditional uses, such as ceremonies, plant and herb collection, grazing, hunting, and recreation. As with all monuments and National Conservation Areas, new mining and drilling will be off the table, minimizing future industrialization of the landscape. However, valid existing rights will be honored, meaning extraction can occur on existing leases/claims in the Monument.
While we know not everyone will agree with the process by which the Bears Ears area is now be protected, we can all agree it should be preserved as close to the way it is now for future generations to be able to enjoy it the way we do today. None of us should have any illusions that the act of creating this Monument alone will provide real, on-the-ground protection without continuing work, compromise, and stewardship by those who love this area.
We hope reasonable people will put aside their differences and rally behind good stewardship for this outstanding landscape. By working together to make sure our concerns and needs are considered in the future management of the Monument, we will achieve far more than by continuing to sow seeds of division amongst the diverse communities that treasure the area.
Friends of Cedar Mesa has worked incredibly hard over the last four years to help accomplish today’s result. While a Monument designation was not our first choice, we celebrate this moment and are prepared to stand up for this landscape being permanently protected. Regardless of what comes in the days ahead, we are committed to providing lasting, practical stewardship for the cultural and natural resources of the Bears Ears in the months, years, and generations to come.
We extend a monumental thanks to the many Friends who have stood by us these past few years and helped make this protection a reality!
Now that Bears Ears has been protected, we need staunch defenders of this historic National Monument. Ask your Senator to support Bears Ears for future generations.