On March 8, the Bears Ears Commission, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) released a draft resource management plan (RMP) for the Bears Ears National Monument. This draft RMP is available for public comment until June 11, 2024.

The draft RMP represents a pivotal shift in federal-Tribal relations and a collaborative approach to resource management backed by time-tested stewardship practices.

Traditional Indigenous Knowledge is incorporated throughout the draft plan, but it is best reflected in Alternative E—the preferred alternative of the Commission, BLM, and USFS.

Below you will find helpful messaging on the position of the Commission on the draft RMP, Alternative E specifically, and other resource-specific areas of interest. Explore these messages as you craft your own public comment.

Talking points to guide your comments

  • The draft plan for Bears Ears incorporates traditional knowledge from the five Tribes of the Bears Ears Commission and honors our connection to this landscape. Our ancestors have lived in and stewarded these lands since time immemorial and our knowledge should be prioritized when protecting it because it has stood the test of time.
  • When Tribes are involved in the management of Bears Ears, we can be assured that our ceremonial plants, medicines and cultural belongings will be properly protected and taken care of for generations to come.
  • We relate to ancestral and holy sites with our hearts. The ancestral items and objects in Bears Ears provide knowledge of and connection to our past and future.
  • The U.S. federal government has a legal and moral obligation to protect Tribal and cultural resources on public lands.
  • The creation of the Bears Ears National Monument and the role of the Bears Ears Commission represents an opportunity to heal from historical injustices.
  • When non-Tribal peoples think about places of worship, they think about churches or altars, but Native peoples see entire landscapes as sacred places of ceremony and spiritual connection.
  • Land management agencies have incorporated the Traditional Indigenous Knowledge from the Bears Ears Commission during the creation of this draft Resource Management Plan for the Bears Ears.
  • The agencies have a legal and moral obligation to honor the traditional and local knowledge of the Bears Ears Commission.
  • The draft management plan for Bears Ears incorporates traditional and local knowledge of the Bears Ears Commission and deserves to be upheld and defended from those who oppose the Monument.
  • The Biden Presidential Proclamation restoring Bears Ears National Monument requires federal agencies to work with the Bears Ears Commission in a meaningful way. It’s important for the agencies to listen to the Commission and incorporate our Tribes’ ancestral wisdom on how best to manage the Monument. That is what Alternative E represents.
  • The five Tribal Nations of the Bears Ears Commission have spoken publicly about their goals for managing Bears Ears. For those seeking to protect Bears Ears, a high priority is management informed by Alternative E.
  • Tribes have the Traditional knowledge to properly steward these ancestral homelands, which are now considered National Monument lands. Our ancestors passed down knowledge regarding land, wildlife, and resource management for centuries through cultural or social norms, religious practices, or traditions.
  • As Tribal members, we have much at stake in the design of the Monument Management plan for Bears Ears because we still use and rely on these lands, but not necessarily in ways that are acknowledged or protected by federal agencies.
  • Alternative E demonstrates a commitment to responsible and informed management of protected spaces on public lands.
  • The agencies and the Bears Ears Commission have worked hard to include Tribal knowledge and expertise in this plan. Responsible resource management is crucial, and the Commission and Agencies have chosen Alternative E as the preferred alternative.
  • Native people whose spiritual power comes from the natural world are negatively affected by disruption to that natural world.
  • The five Tribes of the Bears Ears Commission value the auditory environment and believe that the sounds of nature should not be disrupted.
  • The five Tribes of the Bears Ears Commission consider BENM to be a spiritual place and thus value the need for peace and quiet.
  • The natural world uses the winter as a time to replenish, and prepare for a new year of growth. Just as humans and animals rest during the winter months, so too, should landscapes. Allowing traversed areas to rest allows soils and plants to repair.
  • Clean air is important because it is part of earth stewardship of all Native traditions. Air pollution from mining and milling, machinery, vehicles, and construction damage or corrupt the natural environment.
  • There is consensus that the night sky in open spaces should be protected in order to preserve our ancestral connections. Light and dust pollution negatively impact the quality of the night sky.
  • Water is fundamental to all life, and is respected as a living entity. Clean water must be protected in all of its forms for the benefit of all living creatures.
  • Natural sources of water are interconnected with the landscape and are considered the home of deities or spiritual beings.
  • Water is of central importance to Native religion and identity. Tribal members rely on bodies of water for ceremony and to make offerings to the landscape. Ancestors built their homes, communities, and civilizations around bodies of water and these places are still considered sacred
  • The diverse vegetation and topography of Bears Ears supports a variety of wildlife species. Wildlife resources are vital to the spiritual, cultural, and economic welfare of Native people. The abuse of wildlife (i.e. poaching, trophy hunting, overhunting) threatens the political integrity, economic security, and health and welfare of future generations. Birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and other animals are valued by Native people as siblings and many species are tied to clan histories, ceremonies, and identity.
  • Over the millennia, wildlife is tied to all aspects of traditional Native beliefs and practices. Many wildlife species are used for food and in ceremonial activities. Animal harvesting practices that were adapted to the environment and learned over millennia are still being practiced today. Harvesting animals involves religious elements in preparing for the hunt and then caring for the animals following the hunt.
  • Plants provide food, medicine, shelter, dyes, fibers, oils, resins, gums, soaps, waxes, latex, tannins, and even contribute to the air we breathe. The Tribes of the Bears Ears Commission have extensive knowledge about wild plants growing in the Southwest for generations, and we still rely on plants for food, medicine, tools, and ritual purposes. In some cases, people often travel long distances to collect plants and other substances for ceremonies, and the materials from certain places often embody the spiritual power of places like Bears Ears.
  • For all the Tribes of the Bears Ears Commission, ethnobotany is a means of documenting the cultural significance of plants, including seasonality of use, harvesting practices, and traditional management. There are specific plants that are used in ceremonies as well, and often there are cultural practices surrounding their collection.
  • There are many traditional stories about animals that are not around today, and it is understood that these beings existed before humans. These creatures, as seen today as fossils, should be acknowledged and respected.
  • The preservation of fossils and other petrified objects is essential because these items hold traditional significance.
  • All Tribal Nations of the BEITC have ancestral ties to BENM. Moreover, they consider all ancestral places as important to understanding the broader picture of Tribal history and religion. Archaeological sites – physical remains of where our people lived — are found throughout the Bears Ears region. These sites include artifact scatters, rock markings (petroglyphs/pictographs), trails, shrines, wooden structures, pit house villages, and cliff dwellings with standing masonry architecture.
  • Protecting archaeological sites and cultural belongings demonstrates respect for the Tribal nations who advocated for the establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument. Enforcing protections for sacred places upholds the rights to the cultural legacies and ancestral lands of the Coalition Tribes.