Hands off Bears Ears…

I’ve got a question about the fight over the Bears Ears Monument: Why are our Utah politicians so hell-bent on revoking the monument designation?

If you take a minute to look at the map of the new Bears Ears Monument and the map of the area proposed by Rob Bishop in his Public Lands Initiative, the boundaries are really similar. The monument designation leaves out most of the Abajo Mountains. It doesn’t include Hatch Point, Black Mesa and large areas around the town of Bluff and along the San Juan River. A big strip of land next to Glen Canyon Recreation Area was also omitted from the monument.

Obama excluded most of these areas from the monument as concessions to oil and gas interests, uranium mining companies and cattle grazers. These are the same groups that influenced Rob Bishop to leave these areas unprotected by his PLI. So in his characteristic non-conflict style, President Obama “reached across the aisle” one last time to compromise with the hard-liners on the other side and cut down the size of the monument by over a half-million acres from the original monument proposal.

But even with these allowances, Orrin Hatch called the designation “an attack on an entire way of life.” Really, Orrin?

So I ask again: why are Gov. Herbert, congressmen Hatch, Lee, Bishop, Chaffetz and the rest of the Utah delegation so determined to undo the protections that President Obama thoughtfully created? They say it’s because of the loss of economic opportunity for the people of San Juan County. But look at the economic benefits happening right now in Escalante. The president of the Escalante Chamber of Commerce just said, “The Grand Staircase Monument is the city’s biggest asset.”

Or, is the Utah delegation afraid of giving some power back to Native Americans who have lived in this area for thousands of years? The Bears Ears Monument will create a first-of-its-kind commission of Native Americans who will have a voice in monument management.

Most likely, it’s that they don’t want to see the land controlled by We the People. When We the People have control, the land is managed for the benefit of all, not just for the enrichment of a few already wealthy individuals. And when a small fraction of the public land is rightfully returned to the people who have lived here for centuries, the power and influence of a few men in Utah who want that land for themselves and their big-money donors is taken away.

Speak out now — call your elected officials and tell them to focus on the real problems that Utahans face every day. And tell them to keep their hands off of Bears Ears!

—Harry Holland

Castle Valley