Quantcast
Popular
Tim D. Peterson

Bears Ears: We Must Protect This Spectacular, Sacred American Monument

By Mike Matz

Eighty-one years ago, Franklin Roosevelt's secretary of the interior, Harold Ickes, proposed a vast, four million-acre national monument for southern Utah. Over the ensuing decades, pieces of Ickes' vision were realized in the establishment of Canyonlands and Capitol Reef national parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.


Last year, another president and his interior secretary took a big step toward completing Ickes' dream. At the request of five Native American tribes living in the vicinity, and after nearly a weeklong tour by former Interior Sec. Sally Jewell of places proposed for protection, Barack Obama signed a proclamation under authority of the Antiquities Act to designate 1.3 million acres of land as the Bears Ears National Monument.

The move protected an area of sublime beauty and major cultural significance: Bears Ears includes more than 100,000 archeological sites.

"We worked very closely with our scientists, people on the ground, people in the communities that know these landscapes well, the tribes, particularly in [the] case of Bears Ears, that understood what's needed for hunting, gathering and traditional practices and sacred sites," Jewell recently told the Salt Lake Tribune. "Those shaped the boundaries of these monuments which were very carefully thought out."

On April 26, President Donald Trump took action that could begin to unravel the achievement of this decades-long vision. He signed an order directing Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke to review all national monuments established in the past 21 years—upward of two dozen sites in states primarily across the West, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante—to assess whether the "reservation" of these public lands is "the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected" and whether the "designated lands" are really "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures."

Hikers approach a sandstone spire formation on the Owl Canyon trail in Bears Ears National Monument. Bob Lingner

In late March, I visited Bears Ears with friends. We camped at the head of Mule Canyon, spent time at a rim overlooking Arch Canyon, and hiked into Owl Canyon and up Indian Creek. Our conclusion: This is a spectacular place. Sec. Ickes in 1936 and the coalition of tribes last year were absolutely right in pushing for its protection, and all Americans are fortunate to have this natural heritage preserved for them and their children and grandchildren.

Throughout the monument, we saw prehistoric structures and historic landmarks, from the intricately built stone watchtowers that guarded a water spring at the head of the canyon to Newspaper Rock, a sandstone slab filled with centuries' worth of pictographs.

These 2,000-year-old petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock near Monticello, Utah, are within the Bears Ears National Monument boundary. Bob Lingner

We heard coyotes yipping at dawn, just as the sky was beginning to light the red rock afire. High up a sandstone fin we spied ancient cliff dwellings carved into the nearly vertical rock face. In the deep blue of a cloudless day, an arch spanning two precipitous ridges cast a stripe of shade on the canyon bottom where we hiked. We saw elk traversing a mesa through sagebrush flats and deer browsing in juniper-pinyon forests.

Each of these moments is etched upon our memories, and we count ourselves lucky to have found Bears Ears as it has always been.

It is now up to all citizens to speak up for our national monuments. Submit your comment by May 26 to urge President Trump and Sec. Zinke to preserve Bears Ears as it was approved. My friends and I have. Having experienced this special place ourselves, we are now personally invested in its intact protection so that our children and grandchildren can explore and enjoy it as we have.

Nevills Arch in Owl Canyon off Cedar Mesa in the monument. Bob Lingner

Mike Matz directs The Pew Charitable Trust's U.S. public lands program, focusing on wilderness and national monument projects.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
sveta_zarzamora / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Flexitarian Diet: Your Starter’s Guide and Sample Diet Plan

By Joe Leech

While there are many health benefits to being vegetarian, some of us don't want to completely cut out meat.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Pexels

Humanity Chopping Down Tree of Life, New Research Warns

By Jessica Corbett

Underscoring the urgent need for increased and intensely focused conservation efforts, new research shows that human activity worldwide is wiping out plant and animal life—including our own—so rapidly that evolution can't keep up.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Drought and rising global temperatures could hasten the last call for beer. Pixabay

Climate Change Could Cause Global Beer Shortage

Climate change is coming for our beer. Rising global temperatures and widespread drought could cause yields of barley, a primary ingredient in beer, to decrease as much as 17 percent by the end of the century, according to a study published Monday in Nature Plants.

Decreases in the global supply of barley could ultimately cause "dramatic" regional decreases in beer consumption (-32 percent in Argentina, for instance) and corresponding increases in beer prices (+193 percent in Ireland, for instance), the study says.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
View of the damage caused by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, on Oct. 13. HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP / Getty Images

As Scientists Sound Climate Change Alarm, States Lead on Solutions

By Abigail Dillen

This column originally appeared in USA Today.

The world's leading panel of climate experts sounded the alarm this week that we are running out of time to get rising temperatures under control. Its latest report calls for "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented" steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, from worsening wildfires and extreme drought to rising sea levels and more powerful storms. It also reminds us what is at stake if we fail to act: our health, our food and water security, our environment and our economy.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Paul Allen pictured in 2014. Courtesy of Vulcan Inc. / Beatrice de Gea

Paul Allen's Environmental Legacy Lives On

The world lost an important environmental icon on Monday with the passing of Paul G. Allen. He died from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Seattle, according to his company Vulcan Inc. He was 65.

Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates and owned the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, was also a major philanthropist devoted to making the world a better place.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Rangers tranquilized a bear cub to free him from a plastic jar. Maryland Department of Natural Resources - Wildlife & Heritage Service

Rangers Free Bear Cub From Plastic Jar After Three-Day Search

A Maryland bear cub got himself into a sticky situation over the weekend.

The 100-pound male bear earned himself the nickname "Buckethead" when he got his head stuck in a plastic jar in search of a tasty snack, BBC News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Arkhip Vereshchagin / TASS / Getty Images

Trump Admin Plans to Use West Coast Military Bases to Ship Coal, Natural Gas

The Trump administration is considering using military bases to export coal and natural gas as a way to override state opposition to building private export terminals, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke told the AP.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
San Juan National Forest. Scrubhiker (USCdyer) / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Trump Plan to Ramp Up Fracking, Mining in National Forests Threatens Climate

The Trump administration's plan to make it easier for industry to frack and mine in national forests would endanger the climate, wildlife and watersheds, the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups said in comments submitted Monday to the U.S. Forest Service.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!