Bears Ears: The Future of Bluff, Part 2

Bluff, UT  Gateway to Bears Ears

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.

On December 4, President Donald Trump traveled to the Utah state capitol in Salt Lake City to sign an Executive Order shrinking Bears Ears by 85 percent, from 1.35 million acres to just over 200,000 acres. The remaining land was split into two smaller monuments: Indian Creek, near the northern boundary of the original monument, and Shash Jaa’—“Bears Ears” in the Navajo language—along the original monument’s southeastern edge. The president also shrank another Utah monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, from 1.7 million acres to just over one million acres.

Suddenly, the Bluff community’s quiet conversations about its own future were overshadowed by the national outcry over Trump’s actions—and by the celebration of some of their northern neighbors in Blanding and Monticello.

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