This Week in Bears Ears News: Jan. 1-7, 2018
Happy New Year, dear readers! Here's your first news roundup of 2018:
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, named for the two smaller monuments President Trump created when he signed an Executive Order shrinking the original Bears Ears National Monument, aims to codify Trump's decisions while giving Utahns more control over land management. The bill even purports to "create the first Tribally managed national monument" by appointing Natives from San Juan County to a land-management body tasked with making decisions about land use within the borders of the new monument.
But some tribal members are not happy with the bill and what they see as disingenuous messaging about what the legislation would actually do. In an op-ed for The Hill, Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition Co-Chairs Carleton Bowekaty and Shaun Chapoose deliver a blistering takedown of Curtis's proposed legislation.
"This bill completely undermines the ability of our tribes to protect the resources President Obama sought to preserve for us indefinitely," the co-chairs wrote. "It does so by filtering our voice through the very individuals who fought most vociferously against our tribes having a voice in the management of our historic, religious, and cultural patrimony at Bears Ears. In characteristic Utah congressional fashion, Congressman Curtis developed this “pro-tribal” bill without ever consulting with our tribes, or any of the tribes of the five tribes coalition."
The other big story of the week was the announcement by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, currently the longest-serving Senator, that he will be retiring at the end of 2018. There is no question that Hatch was instrumental in Trump's decision to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments; indeed, had Hatch decided not to use his considerable influence with the President, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante might have been left alone. Instead, the Bears Ears debate and the subsequent outcome will be a significant part of Hatch's legacy, and will cement Utah's reputation as a state whose politicians (with notable exceptions) are hostile to federal land protections.
The above exchange on the op-ed pages of Monticello, Utah's San Juan Record embodies the monument debate in miniature. It's also reflective of the deep cultural tensions that have roiled conversations about public land use in the West for decades.
A rather high-profile tit-for-tat over Bears Ears has been playing out in the media, at least partially funded by taxpayer dollars. The short version: On Dec. 4, 2017, just after President Trump signed an Executive Order shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, outdoor retailer Patagonia published a striking message: "The President Stole Your Land." The company noted that Trump's move was "the largest elimination of protected land in American history." The Trump administration was not amused; neither was Rob Bishop (R-UT), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and sworn enemy of the Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the authority to establish national monuments.
Shortly after Patagonia published its message, the official Twitter account of House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC) tweeted, "Patagonia is Lying to You." Bishop also issued an invitation to Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard: testify before the Natural Resources Committee about his opposition to the monument. Strong words were traded. The plot thickens.
We missed this piece when it was first published; we are sharing it now because it's one of the more comprehensive articles on the fight for the future of Bears Ears we've seen. Well worth 30 minutes of your time.