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.