Bears Ears Plan ‘Salt in the Open Wounds’ of Tribes, Risks Irrevocable Harm to the Land, History, Wildlife

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 26, 2019) — A new management plan for the tiny areas that replaced the Bears Ears National Monument would risk the degradation and destruction of Native American historical and cultural artifacts, wildlife habitat, public health and public lands throughout southern Utah. The National Wildlife Federation and allies urged the Bureau of Land Management to reverse course before the cultural, historical and natural resources are irrevocably lost.
 
“The illegal decimation of Bears Ears National Monument opens up ancestral lands of the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni to development that will likely degrade critical wildlife habitat, fragment migration corridors, and potentially expose southern Utah communities to unacceptable pollution and health risks,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Now the management plan for the meager remnants of the original monument simply pours salt in the open wounds of the tens of thousands of tribal leaders and citizens who fought for decades to conserve these sacred lands.”

“For Latinos and Native Americans, these sites provide a rich history of those who came before us. These and other public lands tell our story, the story of all Americans — and speak volumes about what we value as a nation,” said Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a member of the HECHO advisory board and a former Utah state representative. “I’m disheartened that respect for our indigenous ancestors is not reflected in this plan. I’m disheartened that this plan prioritizes destruction rather than preservation of our nation’s assets.”

Carleton Bowekaty, lieutenant governor of the Zuni Pueblo and co-chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, said since the federal protections were eliminated from the larger region, a significant amount of damage has been inflicted on the lands and cultural treasures. 
 
“It’s like seeing that your grandmother’s house has been robbed,” Bowekaty said. “These lands are sacred to us and they are being destroyed — sometimes inadvertently — by people who don’t understand our culture and way of life. That’s why we want all of this area protected, so we can help educate others and share our traditions with all people.”