Bears Ears: Setting the Stage

Mesa in Dramatic Lighting   Bears Ears Country

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The red rock country of southeast Utah is distinctively dramatic, a region so striking it has become a visual shorthand for the wild majesty of the West. Its iconic scenery creates a compelling backdrop—and battleground—for one of today’s most fractious and passionate debates over the future of public lands.

On December 28, 2016, President Barack Obama established Bears Ears National Monument, invoking his powers under the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect 1.35 million acres of land in San Juan County, Utah, land that had been proposed for protection for over a century.

“From earth to sky, the region is unsurpassed in wonders. The star-filled nights and natural quiet of the Bears Ears area transport visitors to an earlier eon,” President Obama’s proclamation states. “Protection of the Bears Ears area will preserve its cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources . . . for the benefit of all Americans.”

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