Environment | Opinion | Politics

Richard Moe: Protect sacred and ancestral sites at Bears Ears






Utah Dine Bikeyah Board Chairman Willie Grayeyes, left, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe council member Malcolm Lehi ride horses at Bears Ears in Utah. Photo from UDB / Facebook

Richard Moe, the president emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, calls on President Barack Obama to create a national monument at Bears Ears in Utah in order to protect 1.9 million acres of sacred and ancestral sites:
Bears Ears represents the most important and intact array of unprotected cultural resources on federal land. And those resources are increasingly at risk — from looting, vandalism, off-road vehicles, grave robbing and the occasional carelessness of visitors. Assigned to patrol and protect this huge area are two full-time rangers.

Named for two buttes rising dramatically from the desert landscape, Bears Ears is especially important to the Indian tribes and pueblos of the Southwest that trace their ancestry to the area and the ancient sites it contains. Twenty-six tribes support protecting lands within Bears Ears, and some of them — led by the Hopi, the Ute Mountain Utes, the Zuni Pueblo, the Navajo Nation and the Ute Tribe of Unitah and Ouray — have formed an unprecedented Inter-Tribal Coalition to advocate the permanent protection of their ancient and sacred homeland.

The coalition emphasizes its deep spiritual connection with Bears Ears, “where tribal leaders and medicine people go to conduct ceremonies, collect herbs for medicinal purposes, and practice healing rituals stemming from time immemorial. . . . Our relationship and visits to Bears Ears are essential for healing, and ruining the integrity of those lands forever compromises our ability to heal.”

There is virtually unanimous agreement on the unique cultural significance of Bears Ears — there is nothing else in the country even approaching it — yet there is no agreement on the need to protect it. Despite active local support for protection among both Indians and non-Indians, Utah’s congressional delegation has persistently but so far unsuccessfully tried to deny President Obama the right to make Bears Ears a national monument under the Antiquities Act, which was signed into law and used by President Theodore Roosevelt more than 100 years ago for exactly this purpose.

Get the Story:
Richard Moe: President Obama, make Bears Ears a national monument (The Washington Post 7/20)

Also Today:
Press Release: Secretary Jewell, Under Secretary Bonnie Join Utah Local Leaders at Public Meeting to Hear Community Visions for Public Lands Conservation (DOI 7/18)
Before a packed meeting, Interior Secretary Jewell sees harm visitors are causing at proposed Bears Ears monument (The Salt Lake Tribune 7/17)
Bears Ears proposal draws passionate crowd to Bluff (The Cortez Journal 7/17)
Interior leader hears from public on Bears Ears monument proposal (AP 7/17)
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell gets another side of the Bears Ears story on Day 3 in Utah (The Salt Lake Tribune 7/16)
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visits ground zero in divisive monument debate, vows to listen to all sides (The Salt Lake Tribune 7/15)
Get the Story:
House passes bill to limit new national monuments in Utah (The Salt Lake Tribune 7/15)
Bears Ears debate at center of proposed act (The Farmington Daily-Times 7/15)
As Interior secretary tours sacred tribal site, Utah Republicans push to protect it (The Washington Post 7/14)
Push to create Utah monument marks latest Western land fight (AP 7/14)

Related Stories:
Tribes gear up for fight over protections for sacred land in Utah (7/15)
Funding bill for Indian Country clears House for first time in years (7/14)
Editorial: Bears Ears in Utah is worthy of monument designation (06/20)
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)
Navajo Nation Council dispels misinformation about Bears Ears (10/29)
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)