A unique management approach was solidified last weekend between five Native American tribes, the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service with the formalization of the Bears Ears Commission.
“This is an important step as we move forward together to ensure that tribal expertise and traditional perspectives remain at the forefront of our joint decision-making for Bears Ears National Monument,” said Tracy Stone- Manning, director of the Bureau of Land Management. . “This kind of true co-management will serve as a model for our work to honor the nation-to-nation relationship in the future.”
The Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni will share co-management of the 1.36 million acres the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.
“Today (Saturday) instead of being removed from a landscape to make way for a public park, we are being asked to return to our ancestral lands to help repair them and plan for a resilient future. ‘applying our traditional knowledge to natural and man-made ecological challenges, drought, erosion, visitation, etc.,’ said Bears Ears Commission Co-Chair and Zuni Pueblo Lieutenant Governor Carleton Bowekaty. What better way to restorative justice than to give tribes the opportunity to participate in the management of the lands from which their ancestors were driven?
Following the signing ceremony to officially reconstitute the Bears Ears Commission, a new sign bearing the Five Tribes insignia was unveiled along Route 261 in San Juan County.
“It is an honor for the Department of Agriculture to sign this first-of-its-kind cooperative agreement,” said the USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. Homer Wilkes. “This agreement outlines a shared vision for the stewardship of Bear Ears National Monument and the protection of these sacred lands that are important to so many people.”
Last October, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation to restore the Bears Ears National Monument, recognizing the importance of tribal nations’ knowledge in the management of the monument by reconstituting the Bears Ears Commission created by President Barack Obama in 2016, consisting of of an elected officer. each of the five tribes.
While the BLM and US Forest Service jointly manage the monument and will prepare a management plan, they will do so in cooperation with the tribes.
The sprawling monument in southeastern Utah has been a so-called political football, rocked by three separate presidential administrations as the land use controversy continues to be one of the most contentious issues in the state.
Three different interior secretaries under the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations have visited the area as part of a review of its potential designation as a monument or its downsizing, like what happened under the Trump administration.
President Donald Trump also downsized the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, designated in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. This monument was later restored by Biden.
Conservative GOP leaders in Utah have long attacked the Antiquities Act, which allows presidential designations of monuments. Republican leaders in Utah have argued that executive power has been abused to serve special interest groups or to lock down large tracts of land without the benefit of multiple use.
In June of last year, the Utah GOP delegation implored Biden to come up with a legislative solution rather than an outright restoration of the Utah landmarks that Trump has downsized.
On his first day in office, Biden made it clear he wanted to revisit the issue of Utah monument boundaries, reduced in December 2017 after the Utah delegation and other political leaders pushed with vehemence to reduce the size of the monuments.
Trump agreed, despite protests from environmental groups, conservation organizations and Native American tribes, who hold bear ears in particular sacred.