Stand Firm for Bears Ears


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 Urgent Call to Action: #StandWithBearsEars NOW

You can comment on Bears Ears National Monument until 11:59 p.m. on May 25 at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001

Comments about Bears Ears National Monument do not need to be filled with legal language or technical information.  You simply need to let Secretary Zinke know that you want to keep Bears Ears National Monument and why.  Your unique words and voice are the strongest weapons that we have in this struggle.  Below are some ideas to get you started and some tips on how to best create your comment, but what’s most important is that you take action now.

Some ideas for comments (please use these as starting points for your own thoughts):

  • My tribe has historical ties to the Bears Ears region, and I want to protect this culturally rich region that has meant so much to my people since time immemorial.
  • The process for establishing the Bears Ears National Monument was a long one in which the public spoke very clearly.  We want to keep the Bears Ears National Monument designation that we worked so hard to achieve.
  • The coalition of tribal nations in the Bears Ears region should have a place at the table in the management of the natural and cultural resources in the region.  The national monument designation rightfully gave them a voice.  Don’t take it away.
  • I enjoy visiting the wonderful outdoor treasures in Utah, and I want to protect them.  I want to keep the Bears Ears National Monument exactly as it is and preserve it as a resource for all Americans.

Tips for writing an effective comment:

  • There is no minimum or maximum length for an effective comment.
  • You may comment on any part or the whole regulation.
  • Base your justification on sound reasoning, scientific evidence, and/or how you will be impacted.
  • Address trade-offs and opposing views in your comment.
  • The comment process is not a vote–one well-supported comment can be more influential than a thousand form letters.
  • If a rule raises many issues, do not feel obligated to comment on every one–select those issues that concern and affect you the most or that you understand the best.

Last December, President Obama designated an area of great importance in southeastern Utah as a national monument known as “Bears Ears.”  On April 26, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to conduct a two-part review, aimed first at the Bears Ears National Monument in Southeastern Utah and then at other post-1995 monument designations made pursuant to the Antiquities Act.

Pictographs. Photo credit: Jonathan Bailey

Pictographs. Photo credit: Jonathan Bailey

The stated policy of the order is to review all monuments created since 1996 to determine if they were created without “public outreach and proper coordination.” However, the Bears Ears National Monument was created after decades of advocacy and many public meetings in the region and in Washington, DC, over the past two years. The effort to protect Bears Ears was very long, very public, and very robust. To say that it needs review to determine if the proper outreach was conducted is an outrage and nothing more than pretext to withdraw Bears Ears from monument protection altogether.

Bears Ears is a homeland to five tribes (Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Hopi and Zuni) as well as other Southwestern tribes. Like countless other tribes across the United States, Native people were removed from Bears Ears by threat and coercion and forced onto reservations.  However, the threats of a hostile government could not keep people away from the place they called home since time immemorial.  Bears Ears is an area filled with sacred sites, hunting grounds, and medicines that are all still utilized today, and it is a place where Native ancestors are buried and to be honored.

Monument management is to be guided in part by a Bears Ears Commission made up of commissioners from five tribes whose members continue to use the Monument for cultural and religious purposes to this day: Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Zuni Tribe, Uintah and Ouray Ute, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

“The Trump administration’s review of Bears Ears is extremely disappointing because Bears Ears is one of the most important places to Indian Country and the Tribes fought hard to ensure that this sacred area was protected,” said John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF).

Cultural site. Photo credit: Tim Peterson

Cultural site. Photo credit: Tim Peterson

“Make no mistake, this order has nothing to do with asking for public input.  They got that in creating the Bears Ears Monument. They just don’t like the result.  This order is about taking away public lands from the American people in order to free them up for resource exploitation,” said NARF Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth. “Secretary Zinke has not responded to a single letter from the tribes about Bears Ears. We call on Secretary Zinke to honor our tribes, respect tribal sovereignty—as he explicitly said he would do—and protect Bears Ears,” said NARF Staff Attorney Matthew Campbell.

The Native American Rights Fund represent the Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and will fight to protect the Bears Ears National Monument.