A Look at the Bear's Ears National Monument Battle

Jul 26, 2016

Jonathan Thompson of High Country News tells KSUT's Mark Duggan that the debate over managing federal land in southeast Utah could soon come to a head with an executive order creating a national monument.

  

Lower Comb Ridge looking north into what may someday be the Bears Ears National Monument.
Credit Jonathan Thompson

There are two competing proposals to manage a large swath of federal land in southeast Utah.

One calls for the creation of what would be known as Bear's Ears National Monument. It's supported by a multi-tribe coalition that includes the Ute Mountain Ute, Hopi and Zuni.

Another is known as the Public Lands Initiative, or PLI, proposed by Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

Monument supporters say the PLI doesn't go far enough in protecting certain public lands, especially those with cultural significance to Native Americans. They've asked the President to issue an executive order to turn about 1.9 million acres of land into a national monument. The request has opponents alleging that the effort is being guided by outside environmental groups.

Sally Jewell, Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department, visited the area recently and met with monument supporters and opponents. Many on both sides took this as a final step before a presidential declaration.

The issue has continued to stoke elements of what's known as the modern 'Sagebrush Rebellion' in southeast Utah, which objects to federal land control.

Additional resources:
Jonathan Thompson's July 19 report from Jewell's visit to Bluff, Utah
Jonathan Thompson's May 3 High Country News article on Bear's Ears
Bear's Ears Coalition website
Public Lands Initiative website