BEAR EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT, UTAH. APRIL 19 2021 –
The leaders of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition extend our deepest gratitude to Secretary Haaland and her staff for meeting, hiking and sharing a meal with us in our traditional homelands of Bears Ears to discuss the future of this sacred place.
It was an honor to share with you some of our perspective rooted in knowledge passed from our ancestors that remain relevant to the stewardship of this landscape. The Secretary’s intention to start a new chapter in the federal-Tribal relationship is evident in the way you interact with us and the landscape that we hold dear.
After meeting with the Secretary and speaking with the Utah delegation, we stand firm in our request that President Biden immediately restore and expand the Bears Ears National Monument to the boundaries of 1.9 million acres originally proposed by our Tribes to the Obama administration in 2015. Years of grassroots work and inter-tribal collaboration went into our original proposal to President Obama, and we have amassed a trove of data and cultural information to substantiate the need to protect this entire, interconnected cultural landscape.
While we are very eager to continue pursuing legislative protections for Bears Ears, restoration should not wait on legislation and, thus far, the Utah delegation has yet to suggest any substantive points or counter-proposal in response to our proposal that we have been committed to for the last 6 years. As we have learned from past experience legislative negotiations can collapse, and even in the best-case scenario can take years to advance in Congress. Bears Ears needs protection now. Each day that passes without protection for our sacred sites and cultural properties allows for the desecration, looting, vandalism, and misinformed visitation to continue unabated and risk irreversible harm to the 100,000+ cultural sites that dot the Bears Ears region. Conversations about legislation can always take place, whether or not President Biden has taken action to restore these desperately needed protections, but sacred sites and cultural resources left at risk of destruction can never be replaced.
We are delighted the administration is committed to a new era of public lands management, environmental justice, and climate change policy, where our traditional knowledge and enduring connections to place, our stories of migration, civilization and removal, can be leveraged as a resource for the vision and management of a landscape such as Bears Ears.
This statement represents the joint views of the five Tribes making up the Coalition. Each Tribe, acting as sovereign nations, may also offer independent comments.