This Week in Bears Ears News: Jan. 8-14, 2018
A sampling of stories from the Bears Ears beat:
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.
Coverage of last week's hearing on House Bill 4532, Rep. John Curtis' (R-UT) proposed legislation that would make permanent President Trump's redrawn boundaries for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. (To recap: Trump's December 4, 2016 executive order shrunk Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by over half; at the same time, Trump created five smaller monuments out of the remaining land.)
Curtis and the bill's supporters say it gives Native American tribes a stronger role in managing the land within the new monument, but leaders of the inter-tribal coalition that advocated successfully for the establishment of the original monument say it actually robs them of agency and disrespects tribal sovereignty.
A report from the Jan. 9 rally at the Utah State Capitol, where protestors decried HB 4532 and what they see as Utah politicians' continued assault on public lands. “HR 4532 is a despicable act, rolling back protection for the Bears Ears and a disrespect to the tribes,” said Scott Groene, executive director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
Another take on the HB 4532 hearing, courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune's Bears Ears dynamic duo, public lands reporter Brian Maffly and DC correspondent Thomas Burr. The piece does an excellent job of illustrating the tension between Native Americans on both sides of the monument debate. While tribal leaders and many Native residents of San Juan County decried Trump's move to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument established by former President Barack Obama, there is a small faction of Natives that think Trump's actions and Curtis's bill will benefit them.
The Bureau of Land Management, acting on a directive from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, is preparing to draw up new management plans for the two Utah national monuments shrunk by President Trump last month. In the case of Bears Ears, Zinke's latest move effectively erases the plans articulated in Obama's December 2016 proclamation establishing Bears Ears National Monument. This is all unfolding as numerous groups have filed five separate lawsuits against the Trump administration and seek to prove that the President's alteration of the original monument boundaries is illegal; if the courts side with them, the BLM's new plans will be rendered moot.
A blistering piece from Utah's paper of record.