Bears Ears National Monument Under Attack

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ACTION ALERT: On Tuesday, January 30 at 10:30 am ET, the House Natural Resources Committee will have a hearing on H.R. 4532 – a bill which WOULD ELIMINATE BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT. Please join HECHO in standing with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Commission's five sovereign tribal nations, including the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, the Pueblo of Zuni, the Ute Tribe, and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, in saying NO TO H.R. 4532.

Why is H.R. 4532 bad news for public lands? H.R. 4532 would:

·       Create two new, smaller national monuments - Shash Jáa and Indian Creek - out of Bears Ears, and slash protected lands by 85 percent. This would leave millions of acres of wildlife habitat and tens of thousands of archaeological sites vulnerable.

·       On February 2nd open lands to uranium and other mineral mining and drilling claims, threatening important habitat for many wildlife species, including the threatened Mexican spotted owl, peregrine falcons, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and black bears.

·       Completely undermine the structure of our public lands management system by dictating that federal land managers must follow plans approved by councils that do not represent the interests of all Americans.

·       Violate the express wishes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Commission's five sovereign tribal nations, including the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, the Pueblo of Zuni, the Ute Tribe, and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. They have unequivocally stated their position that Bears Ears National Monument remain intact.  A majority of the votes on both monument management councils would be state or local officials who have no federally required trust responsibility and who cannot speak to the cultural needs of the tribes or sacred nature of the sites.  

How did this happen?

Bears Ears National Monument just celebrated its one-year anniversary in December.  This designation received an enormous amount of careful consideration, including years of listening to stakeholders. The final monument designation boundaries are very close to what was proposed in the Utah delegation’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI), and much smaller (550,000 acres) than the Tribally-led proposal.

During it’s first year as a national monument, however, it was reviewed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, along with several other special places that protect our nation’s cultural heritage, and recommended to President Trump that it be shrunk by 85%.

Fortunately, under the Antiquities Act the President lacks the authority to eliminate or significantly alter a national park or national monument. However, Congress does have the authority, which is why this bill must be stopped.

Nearly 3 million Americans also commented to the Department of Interior that they opposed changes to Bears Ears and other national monuments. Despite this overwhelming opposition, this bill would make the President’s misguided and illegal decision reality forever.

HECHO’s Position

HECHO strongly supports the protection of our beloved national monuments, which are tied to familial and cultural outdoor traditions.  An attack on one monument is an attack on them all.

Outdoor recreation and energy development need not be in direct conflict. We should value all of our resources. It is especially concerning that our pristine monuments that are currently open for hunting, fishing, and hiking are now at risk of being closed or overrun by strip mines and oil fields. Preventing highly impactful activities in designated areas for the purpose of conserving these special places is not “locking up” the land, rather it is managing it for the greater good, including for the benefit of both current and future generations.

Bears Ears is a sacred landscape with more than 100,000 Native American cultural sites. It is also home to scientific wonders, irreplaceable wildlife, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities that form a vital base to the local economy.

Most voters in Utah support leaving these monuments alone. But while local input is important, at the end of the day, these are federal lands that belong to all of us. They are part of our nation’s treasures and preserve the rich history of the entire United States.

We must urge our elected and appointed leaders to support our national monuments, not eliminate or shrink these lands that are essential cultural and historical touchstones for a variety of people and communities.