Bears Ears in the News: "There's Oil in Them Thar Hills" edition
Bears Ears in the News: Feb. 12-25
Normally, we bring you a variety of stories exploring different facets of the Bears Ears debate, but this week we're interrupting our regularly scheduled programming to focus on one explosive story.
The investigative piece in question: a detailed investigation by New York Times reporters Eric Lipton and Lisa Friedman, "Oil Was Central in Decision to Shrink Bears Ears National Monument, Emails Show."
The background: Last year, the New York Times filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking any and all documents relating to the decision by the Trump administration to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. The Interior Department refused to comply. The Times sued and eventually prevailed.
This Week in Bears Ears News: Feb. 5-11
Two weeks of updates for the price of one! Here's what you may have missed on the Bears Ears beat:
Curtis holds hearing to explain, hear input on bill - San Juan Record, 2/13/18
Utah Rep. John Curtis, who represents residents of the Bears Ears region, has gotten an earful from constituents and politicians on both sides of the aisle who either love or hate his "Bears Ears bill." (The bill, which would memorialize the reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument, is explained more fully here.) The venerable San Juan Record covered a community meeting in San Juan County in which Curtis at turns explained and defended his bill before admitting it was likely as good as dead.
The Controversy Over the Curtis Bill, Explained
Lots of news on the Bears Ears beat:
Congress reasserts authority over national monuments - Washington Times, 2/6/18
Following the brouhaha over President Trump’s rescinding Bears Ears and replacing it with two much smaller designations, lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee are seeking to use their power to create new monuments through the legislative process - a method much preferred by many Republicans who view monuments established by a presidential proclamation as "federal/executive overreach."
This Week in Bears Ears News: Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2018
When you've covered a story or beat long enough, every new development becomes interwoven with the past months or years' coverage. A familiar cast of characters reprises their roles; key themes emerge and recur.
And so it was with the recent House Natural Resources Committee hearings on HR 4532, Utah Rep. John Curtis's bill that would codify President Trump's December 2017 executive order shrinking Bears Ears National Monument. On one side: the Utah Congressional delegation, Republicans on the committee, and the San Juan County Commissioners, represented by Commissioner Rebecca Benally; on the other, elected leaders from the five sovereign tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition: The Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni, and the Ute Indian Tribe.
This Week in Bears Ears News: Jan. 22-28, 2018
Bears Ears Officially Opens to Oil and Gas and Mining - Outside, 2/2/18
Outside has done consistently solid reporting on all things Bears Ears and public lands. Don't let the fatalistic URL fool you: this piece takes a clear-eyed look at the opening of lands formerly within Bears Ears National Monument to resource extraction, and explains why we're unlikely to see an "1800s-style land rush" bonanza anytime soon.
This Week in Bears Ears News: Jan. 15-21, 2018
Our weekly sampling of stories from the Bears Ears beat:
Guv unveils $22.5 million tourism plan - Salt Lake City Weekly, 1/22/18
Utah Governor Gary Herbert says the new plan will encourage tourists to explore scenic areas beyond the state's "Mighty Five" national parks, which thanks to a wildly successful marketing campaign are now severely overcrowded. Some Herbert critics see irony in the Governor's seeking to promote outdoor tourism.
This Week in Bears Ears News: Jan. 8-14, 2018
A smattering of stories from the Bears Ears beat:
All are welcome to visit Bears Ears - The Journal (Cortez, CO), 1/15/18
In our first news roundup of 2018, we shared a feisty tit-for-tat from the editorial page of Monticello, Utah's San Juan Record. The above letter continues the conversation between the residents of San Juan County, Utah and the "outsiders" who love Bears Ears.
This Week in Bears Ears News: Jan. 1-7, 2018
A sampling of stories from the Bears Ears beat:
Some Monumental Issues - Archaeology Southwest, 1/8/18
Archaeologist Bill Lipe has spent more than 50 years working in the American Southwest and is one of the foremost experts on the archaeology of the Bears Ears region. In this piece, he makes the case for preservation of the entire Bears Ears cultural landscape, not merely the best-known archaeological sites. A good read and well worth 15 minutes of your time.
Bears Ears: The Future of Bluff, Part 2
Happy New Year, dear readers! Here's your first news roundup of 2018:
Utah Bill Tramples on Tribal Sovereignty at Bears Ears - The Hill, 1/3/18
The week's biggest Bears Ears story centers on a bill introduced by new Utah Rep. John Curtis (R), elected last fall to replace former Congressman-turned-Fox News commentator Jason Chaffetz. The Shaash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act
Bears Ears After Trump: Separating Fact From Fiction
When we spoke with residents of Bluff, Utah last month about their decision to incorporate as a town, the original Bears Ears National Monument established in December 2016 by Barack Obama was still intact. Bluff, a tiny community of 250 or so people in Utah’s southeastern corner that lay just outside the monument, was still widely expected to become the de facto gateway to Bears Ears. But that was before the Trump trip.
This Week in Bears Ears News: Dec. 11-17 and Dec. 18-24
“Land grab.” “Local people.” “Left behind.”
These are some of the words and phrases that opposing sides have wielded as weapons against one another in the battle for the future of Bears Ears National Monument. In the weeks since President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Order shrinking Bears Ears by 85 percent and reducing another controviersial Utah monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, by nearly half, the rhetoric has reached a fever pitch.
This Week in Bears Ears News: Trump Executive Order Edition
A sampling of stories from the Bears Ears beat:
Zinke, House GOP escalate feud with Patagonia over shrinking of national monuments - Associated Press via Denver Post, 12/11/17
After outdoor retail giant Patagonia published an attention-grabbing message in response to President Trump's shrinking of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and House GOP leaders fought back.
Bears Ears: The Future of Bluff, Part 1
Well, folks, it really happened. Yesterday, during a whirlwind trip to Utah, President Trump signed an Executive Order shrinking Bears Ears National Monument from 1.35 million acres to 202,000 acres and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from 1.9 million acres to just over 1 million acres. So what happens now? Let us break it down for you.
This Week in Bears Ears News: Nov. 20-26
Tiny Bluff, Utah sits on the edge of Bears Ears National Monument - and at the heart of the hotly contested debate over the monument’s future. National publicity has drawn more people to Bluff, which has branded itself as the “Proud Gateway to Bears Ears." But can the community find a way to grow to meet tourist demand while maintaining its unique character? Read on...
This Week in Bears Ears News: Nov. 12-18
From A to Zinke: A Beginner's Guide to the Bears Ears Saga
Below is a sampling of stories from the past week representing the latest developments in the fight for the future of Bears Ears National Monument.
Trump to visit Salt Lake City on Monday, will announce a smaller Bears Ears and Grand Staircase - Salt Lake Tribune, 11/28/17
In a highly anticipated announcement, the White House confirmed that President Trump would visit Utah on Monday, Dec. 4 to officially announce his plans to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. The President will instead make the announcement from Salt Lake City and is not expected to stay the night in Utah. Cue numerous lawsuits promised by Native tribes and conservation organizations. Things are about to get very litigious.
Context and Subtext: Mormon Theology Edition
One of the greatest challenges of this project has been trying to explain what our work is about to those unfamiliar with the story we have been following for well over two years. In this blog, and with our books, we are trying to create that space to provide context that is missing from many news stories and to humanize what can be complex and wonky issues. With that in mind, let's take a whirlwind tour of the Bears Ears cultural and political landscape.
Context and Subtext: Native Cosmology Edition
Reverence for nature and a calling to take from the earth only what is needed is enshrined in Mormon theology, and, on a personal level, Anglo-Mormon residents of San Juan County express a deep spiritual attachment to the canyons, rivers, mesas, and wide- open spaces of their homeland. Nonetheless, the anti-environmentalist stance of Utah’s most outspoken politicians, many of whom are also members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) has led many not unfamiliar with LDS teachings to assume Mormons in rural Utah lack strong ties to the land or an ethos of environmental stewardship. Yet as is often the case with religion, the tension lies between doctrine and how its adherents choose to interpret it.
Will San Juan County's Leaders Embrace Tourism?
It is impossible to understand the complex blend of cultures, the powerful connection to the land, and the political landscape that informs the Bears Ears debate without an awareness of the deeply held religious beliefs of Natives and Mormons.
To Native Americans in the Bears Ears region and indigenous peoples around the world, the earth is a living, breathing entity: a nurturer, life-giver, and beloved family member to be treated with unconditional respect.
The county is the poorest in the state, and revenues from extractive industries and ranching are declining while the infrastructure needs are significant. The toxic mix of strong emotions and deep uncertainty make progress on an inclusive and sustainable economic development plan problematic at best. Will leaders find a way to put politics aside and rise to the challenge?