Environment | Opinion

Editorial: Bears Ears in Utah is worthy of monument designation






A view of Bears Ears in Utah. Photo from Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition

The New York Times calls on President Barack Obama to protect 1.9 million acres of sacred and historic land in Utah by designating Bears Ears as a national monument:
President Obama’s visits this weekend to Carlsbad Caverns and Yosemite national parks give him a timely opportunity to think about how, in the twilight of his presidency, he can add to what has already been an admirable record of protecting America’s public lands and marine reserves. The parks themselves are in a celebratory moment, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service. But given Congress’s preference for partisan infighting over environmental stewardship, it is unlikely to approve any additions to the park system. Still, there is much that Mr. Obama can do on his own using the 1906 Antiquities Act, which allows a president to unilaterally protect areas of great natural or historical value as monuments when Congress is unlikely to act.

Of the proposals now circulating at the White House, four potential monument designations are particularly compelling. The most controversial consists of 1.9 million acres in southeastern Utah known as Bears Ears because of two buttes that loom over the landscape. Bears Ears is rich in natural beauty and priceless Native American artifacts that are increasingly at risk from the pillaging and looting that inspired the Antiquities Act in the first place.

A monument designation would earn Mr. Obama the admiration of conservationists and the many Indian tribes that support the idea. It would also arouse the fury of the political establishment in a state where the federal government already owns nearly two-thirds of the land and where powerful interests would resent the restrictions on off-road vehicles, oil and gas drilling, and other development that the designation would bring. But so what? Mr. Obama has nothing to lose politically, and everything to gain in terms of the environmental accomplishment.

Get the Story:
Editorial: Monuments for Future Generations (The New York Times 6/18)

Also Today:
Would Bears Ears monument hinder or protect Native American religion? (The Deseret News 6/19)
Archaeologists petition Obama for monument (The Farmington Daily-Times 6/19)

Related Stories:
Opponents rely on dirty tricks as tribes aim to protect sacred land (06/06)
Editorial: Obama should declare a Bears Ears National Monument (04/25)
Rebecca Benally: Navajos in Utah oppose Bears Ears monument (04/13)
Non-Indian official decries effort to protect sacred lands in Utah (03/15)
Tribes oppose effort to stop Bears Ears National Monument in Utah (03/10)
Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk: Protect Bears Ears for new generations (03/04)
Obama weighs tribal request for Bears Ears National Monument (02/12)
Kevin Washburn: Republicans punish tribe with public lands initiative (02/08)
Tribes reiterate bid for national monument at Bears Ears in Utah (01/22)
Tribes call for establishment of Bears Ears National Monument (10/16)
Jim Enote: Bears Ears worthy of status as national monument (10/14)
Tribes call for new national monument on sacred lands in Utah (08/05)