Bears Ears National Monument: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know



The two bluffs known as the “Bears Ears” stand off in the distance in the Bears Ears National Monument on May 11 outside Blanding, Utah.

President Donald Trump flew from Washington D.C. to Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday to announce that he will sign presidential proclamations which cut back the national monument designations of two massive land forms in favor of development and fossil fuel drilling.

“Today, on the recommendation of Secretary (Ryan) Zinke, and with the wise counsel of Senator (Orrin) Hatch, Senator (Mike) Lee and the many others, I will sign two presidential proclamations,” Trump said during his speech. “These actions will modify the national monuments designations of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante.”

Trump touted the “national treasures” of Utah, and said that taking back a significant portion of Bears Ears, millions of acres of land which were designated as a national monument by President Barack Obama, went far in doing so.

“Unfortunately, previous administrations have ignored the standard and used the law to lock up hundreds of millions of acres of land and water under strict government control,” Trump said.

Here’s what you need to know about Bears Ears and Trump’s announcement:

1. Trump’s Expected to Announce the Reduction of as Much as 92 Percent of the Monument

Ancient granaries, part of the House on Fire ruins are shown here in the South Fork of Mule Canyon in the Bears Ears National Monument on May 12 outside Blanding, Utah.

An article by The New York Times provided further detail into Trump’s executive order. Citing Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, The Times reported that the plan is for Trump to announce that he’ll shrink the monument by between 77 and 92 percent. If it happens, it would be the largest reduction of a national monument ever and it would come after the Trump administration continues to push for more development on public lands.

If the order is signed, it’s expected to be met with an intense legal battle that “could alter the course of American land conservation,” The Times reported, saying that it could open up millions of acres of public land to oil and gas extraction and mining.

2. Bears Ears Measures 1.3 Million Acres in Size & Is Home to Many Natural Resources

The sun peeks around “Bears Ears #1” in the Bears Ears National Monument on May 11 outside Blanding, Utah.

Bears Ears contains 1,351,849 acres of largely-undeveloped land. It contains numerous natural resources and is the home to about 100,000 archaeological sites. It also has many historic and cultural symbols. It’s highlighted by its two massive buttes called the Bears Ears. It’s managed by the United States Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service along with a group of five Native American tribes who have ties to the region. Those groups are the Navajo Nation, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation and the Pueblo of Zuni.

Download video Links

A significant number of Puebloan cliff dwellings from more than 3,500 years ago have been discovered within the region. In a 2015 report documenting the importance of the land, Bears Ears was described as being a “resilient landscape” which Navajo people called “Nahodishgish,” or “a place to be left alone.”

With the threat of the land being developed in a way they deemed irresponsible, an official proposal was made to designate the land as a national monument.

In 2016, Bears Ears was named as one of The National Trust’s “11 Most Endangered Places.”

3. Bears Ears Was Made a National Monument by Obama

Download video Links

Bears Ears is located in San Juan County in southeastern Utah and was established as a national monument following an official proclamation by President Barack Obama on December 28, 2016, one of the last things he did while in office. Read part of the proclamation below:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 320301 of title 54, United States Code, hereby proclaim the objects identified above that are situated upon lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be the Bears Ears National Monument (monument) and, for the purpose of protecting those objects, reserve as part thereof all lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government within the boundaries described on the accompanying map, which is attached to and forms a part of this proclamation. These reserved Federal lands and interests in lands encompass approximately 1.35 million acres. The boundaries described on the accompanying map are confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

Obama — and Trump — was able to do so because of The Antiquities Act, signed by President Roosevelt in 1906 and giving presidents the authority to protect designated areas. Until the Trump administration took over, no president had ever used the act to eliminate or reduce the size of a monument.

4. Ryan Zinke Filed a Report Expressing the Need to Shrink the Monuments

Speculation that Trump may look to draw back on Obama’s proclamation became clear on June 10, when Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke proposed “significantly scaling back the borders” of Bears Ears in an official report. Zinke’s views on the matter was seen as unprecedented by many.

Download video Links

Zinke said in a statement that his reasoning was because the designation of a national monument was “not the best use of the land.”

5. Tribe Leaders Have Fought for the Preservation of Bears Ears

With the designation of Bears Ears being at stake, many have joined forces to advocate for the preservation of it. The website was launched by leaders of the five tribes to “help our tribes fight back.”

Tribal leaders were also on the air on news outlets such as MSNBC to advocate against Trump’s executive order.

Download video Links