My Land, Your Land

Bears Ears National Monument comment period extended

By Amy Brunvand

Ten important facts you should know (don’t believe the political lies).

Ever since the 1800s, when all Indian people residing in the Bears Ears were forcibly removed, we have grieved and suffered great pain over the treatment of these ancestral lands.
– Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, Letter, 12/31/2015

In April, President Trump issued an executive order calling for a “review” to downsize national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act since 1996 and specifically attacking Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah.
In May, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took a four-day tour of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, and on June 10 he issued a brief memo recommending that Bears Ears be downsized. Notably, Zinke’s memo did not summarize or respond to any of the public comments. The public comment period was then reopened. As of this writing 165,610 comments had been received.

10 facts about Bears Ears that you can rely on

1. The idea is not new. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed an “Escalante National Monument” in the Bears Ears region back in 1936. The contemporary Bears Ears plan was developed in 2010 by Utah Diné Bikéyah (pronounced di-NAY bi-Kay-uh), a Navajo nonprofit dedicated to protection of ancestral Native American lands. (The political lie: “Environmental groups wrote the plan.”)

2. Indian tribes support Bears Ears. The Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition includes sovereign governments of five tribes with a cultural history in the Bears Ears region including Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Utes, Ute Indian Tribe and Zuni Pueblo. Some individuals oppose designation, but they speak for themselves. (The political lie: “Indian tribes don’t support a National Monument.”)

3. There was a public process. In 2013 Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) began a Public Lands Initiative (PLI) for the State of Utah. The Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition initially engaged with the PLI process but withdrew due to “the extraordinary unfairness of the proceeding.” After the PLI process failed, the tribes asked President Obama to use his power under the Antiquities Act to declare a National Monument. (The political lie: “President Obama made a unilateral decision without public input.”)

4. Local voices were heard. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 creates a public process to gather information from all public lands stakeholders. There is no law or regulation that gives special privileges to county government or to land owners with property adjacent to federal land, and no formal definition for who does or does not count as “local.” (The political lie: “A review was necessary in order to give local people a voice.”)

5. The 1906 Antiquities Act has protected some of America’s most beloved places. Thanks to the Antiquities Act, Utah has Natural Bridges (1908), Zion (1909), Rainbow Bridge (1910), Dinosaur (1914), Timpanogas Cave (1922), Hovenweep (1923), Bryce Canyon (1923), Arches (1929), Cedar Breaks (1933), Capitol Reef (1937), Grand Staircase-Escalante (1996) and Bears Ears (2016). ( The political lie: “The Antiquities Act has been used in abusive ways to protect unworthy places.”)

6. Bears Ears National Monument belongs to We the People. Monument status does not change ownership, it only changes who gets to write the management plan [see #9]. Federal public land is managed for public use by government agencies like the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). (The political lie: “Bears Ears is a land-grab.”)

7. Boundaries designated by President Obama are smaller than the tribes’ proposal. In fact, designated boundaries closely match those proposed in Rob Bishop’s PLI. (“The political lie: Bears Ears is too big.”)

8. Monument status won’t stop uranium mining. Unfortunately, Bears Ears boundaries were specifically drawn to exclude existing uranium mining operations, so stopping the blight of uranium on the Colorado Plateau is a separate environmental battle. (The political lie: “Bears Ears endangers national security by blocking uranium mining.”)

9. The Bears Ears management plan has not yet been written. There are not yet any specific rules about what activities will and will not be allowed. Writing a management plan will be a public process so that all stakeholders can weigh in. It is likely that many existing uses will be grandfathered into the final plan. (The political lie: “Monument designation will “lock out” traditional and historic land uses.”)

10. Zinke’s memo is not a final decision. Lawsuits to protect Bears Ears can’t begin until a decision is made or an action is taken. Neither President Trump nor Interior Secretary Zinke has the power to “undo” a National Monument designation. Only an Act of Congress can modify an existing National Monument. (The political lie: “Trump and/or Zinke can decide to rescind Bears Ears.”)

Amy Brunvand, U of U sustainability librarian-in-residence, was recently elected to lead the American Library Association’s Sustainability Round Table. Congratulations!

Comment now! Here’s how

The public comment period has been extended to July 10, 2017. It’s not a done deal.
Send in your comments!

• Online— Enter “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and click “Search.”
• By mail—Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior,
1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240.


This article was originally published on July 1, 2017.