Bears Ears in the News: Totems, Tit-for-Tats, and a Big Move for the BLM

Bears Ears Country - San Juan County Mesas and Canyons

Hello, Readers! After a sleepy start to summer on the Bears Ears beat, controversies are once again blazing like so many wildfires burning across the West. Here are the top stories from Bears Ears country:

If Mike Lee Has His Way, Utah Won't Get More Monuments - Outside, July 19, 2018

Utah's junior Republican Senator, Mike Lee, has introduced a bill aimed at preventing the President of the United States from creating and/or expanding national monuments in the Beehive State. Dubbed the Protect Utah's Rural Economy Act (PURE Act for short), it's the latest attempt by Lee to limit presidential authority over Utah's public lands. President Trump has given monument opponents a boost in the past, but how will he react to a bill that seeks to constrain his executive authority?

Congress Continues to Shield National Monuments from Attacks - KRWG New Mexico, July 17, 2018

New Mexico Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan along with 55 co-sponsors introduced the ANTIQUITIES ACT this week. The bill "enhances" protections for all monuments created between 1996 and 2017 - the time frame for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's controversial "review" of national monuments that served as the Trump Adminstration's justification for reducing Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments last year. Both monuments get a boost in the bill, which calls for them to be restored to their original acreage.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke confirms move of BLM headquarters out West - Durango Herald, July 19, 2018

Lost in this week's din about Helsinki and all things Trump-Russia was this bombshell: After well over a year of hint dropping, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made a formal decision to move the national headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management from Washington, D.C. to a yet-to-be-decided location in the West. Why it matters: (1) 99 percent of the land controlled by the BLM is in states west of the Rockies, so it's not hard for Zinke to justify the move; (2) It demonstrates to the Trump supporters in the rural West that his administration wants to shift decision-making from distant elites half a continent away to locals steeped in the culture and land most impacted by federal policy. 

BLM to sell oil and gas leases in December; Groups decry largest sale in a decade - Moab Times-Independent, July 18, 2018

Trump's "America First" ethos extends to what the Administration calls "energy dominance," which places a particular burden on the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees mineral leasing on U.S. public lands. The agency this week announced over 320,000 acres of public land in Utah will be opened to oil and gas leasing at the end of 2018. The land up for grabs includes some of Utah's most beloved landscapes, including the Book Cliffs and Labyrinth Canyon. The public has just two weeks to review the proposed leases and submit comments. Predictably, environmental groups are incensed.

Tribe Presents Giant Bear Totem with Hope for Unity, Bears Ears RestorationDeseret News, July 17, 2018

The Lummi Nation of Washington State delivered a hand-carved, 9-foot-tall, 1-ton bear totem to the Urban Indian Center in Salt Lake City on July 17. The Pacific Northwest tribe presented the totem to Utah tribes as a symbol of unity between all Native Americans and a move of solidarity in the fight to restore Bears Ears National Monument. Read more at the link above for a lovely anecdote about (what else) bears and the power of nature.