Over the past month, more than 150,000 people have offered public comment to the Department of Interior regarding President Trump’s order to review more than 20 of the country’s national monuments. Many wrote directly to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to voice their opinions about Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah, a 1.35-million-acre swath of arid land containing sacred Native American artifacts and striking geological features, which was designated a national monument by President Obama shortly before he left office. The Center for Western Priorities (CWP), a nonpartisan conservation organization, recently compiled comments exclusively from residents of Utah, a population that has much at stake regarding the fate of Bears Ears.
Of the roughly 1,200 self-identified Utahns who commented, 88 percent recommended preserving the Bears Ears National Monument in its current form, while 11 percent argued the monument should be rescinded or significantly reduced in size, says Aaron Weiss, media director at CWP. Despite that overwhelming support for the monument, Secretary Zinke recommended on June 12 that President Trump reduce its size. In light of this news, we compiled some of the most insightful comments—both for and against monument status—from Utah residents.
A veteran with PTSD finds peace in Bears Ears:
I live in La Sal, San Juan County, Utah. From my house I can see the Bears Ears National Monument. I live less than 15 miles from the north boundary. I am in total support of Bears Ears National Monument. Also Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
As a Vietnam veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, I use these areas to find peace, quiet, and solitute [sic]. I find it sad your traveling partners to the Bears Ears National Monument were all people who want to drill, mine and sell these lands. Look up "Lyman Farms" and see what is happening in Utah.
As a San Juan County, Utah resident I want my voice to be heard I want the Bears Ears National Monument. It is, after all, public land that belongs to all Americans, not to locals, or to the State of Utah. Once it is gone, you can't find another.
A mountain biker weighs in on recreation opportunities:
As a mountain biker, outdoor enthusiast, Utah resident, and a citizen co-owner of our country's public lands, I support our existing national monuments. I support high-quality recreation that's managed in lands protected from reckless development and irresponsible resource extraction!
I oppose the repeal of any national monument protections. This sets a bad precedent. These landscapes host high quality recreation on some of our country's most valuable landscapes. National monuments have proven to be popular attractions for tourists and locals alike, substantially contributing to local and regional economies to a much greater extent than the aforementioned resource extraction which permanently devastates both the land and the tourist generated economy.
The San Gabriel Mountains, Fort Ord, and Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monuments in California are three critical landscapes that mountain bikers had ample voice in creating through a public process. Mountain bikers have trail plans under consideration in other national monuments including Browns Canyon in Colorado, Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, and Cascade Siskiyou in Oregon. Likewise, cyclists enjoy riding the rural roads in Escalante Grand Staircase of Utah and Canyon of the Ancients Monuments in Colorado.
These opportunities to enjoy our public lands have ALL come from being involved in a public process. Mountain bikers across the nation can visit and aspire to ride these trails in a natural protected environment.
We applaud a public comment period but urge that a public process be incorporated for designating new monuments not used to roll back existing designations.
I support our existing national monuments.
An experienced outdoorswoman advocates for native artifacts:
Dear Secretary Ryan Zinke,
I have lived in Utah my entire life and worked for a summer just outside of Zion National Park. As an avid hiker, rock climber, and backpacker, I have recognize the benefits of protecting these public lands.
There is a small group in Utah advocating for state control rather than federal control of these lands. However, I do not believe that Utah is able to effectively manage its current public lands and would not be able to protect these federal lands as well. Utah Lake had massive algal blooms last year which were not managed effectively. While this is just one instance, the impact of state mismanagement of this important recreation area was felt throughout the state.
Perhaps the most important reason that I support Bears Ears is because of my experiences with the area. I went on a five-day backpacking trip near Indian Creek, an area which is part of Bears Ears. This area includes many Native American sites. While backpacking, we came across petroglyphs, food storage areas, and even cliffhouses that are believed to have come from the Anasazi. All of these areas that were able to easily be reached had felt the impact of visitors. The arrowheads that were once frequent have disappeared. There is damage from people's fingerprints on petroglyph walls. There was one site in particular that was absolutely devastating. It was easily accessible from the floor of the canyon that my group was hiking in. When we went closer, it was appalling to see how much damage had been done. In comparison, there was a dwelling located about 40 feet up the cliff face that was in extremely good condition. Making this area a national monument would protect these artifacts from such damage and would preserve them for future generations.
I would like to share one last concern. I appreciate the ability to weigh in on this topic as a Utahn, but I do not come from the area that Bears Ears encompasses. While submitting comments online is extremely convenient to me, there are many people who would be greatly affected by this National Monument who do not have the same access to internet. It would be wise, in my opinion, to also allow for comment via mail or to advertise that comments are being taken into consideration in local newspapers.
A Republican says Zinke isn’t listening to both sides:
Dear Secretary Ryan Zinke,
I have listened to both sides of the argument, concerning National Monuments here in Utah, and I believe our representatives are only listening to those wanting to exploit this resource for profit. If these lands are public lands, they are, then it is not just Utahns [sic] that have a say in this issue. The Native Americans who want to preserve these land by making them a National Monument have not been given equal air time in the media.
These are National Monuments for the nation, not just Utah. I cannot imagine missing out on Yellowstone or any National Monument because of short sighted people like those opposing Bear's Ears or Escalante.
I am a Republican, Combat Veteran, and resident of Utah. I want to keep Bear's Ears and Escalante the way President Obama signed them into law.
Bears Ears will strip the Forest Service of resources, create congestion:
I wish to comment on the Bears Ears Monument.
I live in Monticello, right next to the monument. I have lived here and raised my family here all my life. For 30 years I worked in the summer on the mountain. In the winters, I took my kids and hiked Cedar Mesa, and spent much time in Lockheart Basin, Beef basin, and the surrounding areas.
Nobody argues that our land is beautiful. No one argues the value of the ruins left behind by the Anasazi. But trying to manage it as a monument is insane. The BLM and the Forest service have limited resources as it is, and drawing more people here to tromp over it just makes the problem worse. We don't need more people here. We need left alone. Case in point. In 1982 I took my boys for the first time and hiked to 7 kivas in Road Canyon on Cedar mesa. There were no trails down the canyon, the ruins were really pristine, with lots of pottery, even a used sandal and a corncob doll, the roofs were secure and the midden slope was secure. WE took pictures, left very few footprints, and had a great time. Not too much later, the folks at Kane Springs ranger station started worrying about too many people in Grand Gulch, and started pushing folks to explore Road Canyon, Fish and Owl creek, etc. Now, you go to 7 kivas or the Citadel ruin, etc, and you find a huge path leading there, no pottery, the midden slope is sliding down into the wash, the roofs of the kivas are in fear of breaking down, and basically the ruin has been compromised beyond repair. The impact wasn't from infamous looters, it was from people. Too many people. I could go on forever about the impact of too many people, as could anybody with a historical perspective [sic].
The monument includes a massive overreach that includes Elk ridge, that is used for hunting, cows, timber, wood gathering, etc. Access is important. Camping is popular, roads are important. Trails are important. The various uses there are incompatible with a monument. They are compatible with forest land. The land of many uses. Same with Beef Basin, Bull Valley, etc. We already have parks for single use. That is enough.
The idea of this indian coalition pushing for the monument was just a front from environmental groups using the tribes to somehow make it seem sacred or religious to them. All my 40 years of using Elk ridge, and Cedar mesa I have seen a few Navajos collecting wood on Cedar mesa, and a few Utes and Navajos on Elk ridge, mostly with guns in the car looking to shoot anything that moves. That idea that these tribes hold Bears Ears as sacred and use it all the time, is just a scam. Talk to the people who live in Utah and they don't want more regulations, and more attraction either.
A Native American woman wants the monument repealed:
I live in San Juan County UTAH. I'm Native American, my name is Nicole Wells and a tribal member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and of the Zuni Tribe living in the small community of White Mesa, Utah (84511).
I want Bears Ears National Monument RESCINDED.
WE HAVE NO INFRASTRUCTURE to take on the massive amounts of tourist the greedy OUTDOOR RETAILERS pushed on us with the Bears Ears monument designation!!!
ALSO, Bears Ears isn't even funded at all. what does that mean? My kids have to be stacked with enormous debt our country already has to pay these monuments with my hard earned TAX DOLLARS?
WE DON'T WANT BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT!
Please understand that the land and the people took care of this area LONG LONG LONG, before there was ever a monument.
WE DON'T WANT BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT!
I just learned that former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell herself was a CEO of a private company, REI, that gains profits off the designations of national monuments all over the country. that would make sense as to why she recommended President Obama to designate Bears Ears National Monument in a very undemocratic process.
On my tribe, big issues that affect all The People are put to a vote. FOR SOME QUESTIONABLE REASON, this issue for the monument never was brought before our eyes to vote on.
It was a very undemocratic process.
PLEASE RESCIND BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT [SIC]