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The Bears Ears National Monument

Nov 15 2016

After months of anticipation, the Obama Administration has designated 1.3 million acres of southeastern Utah as the Bears Ears National Monument. The decision, announced 22 days before the end of the administration, has been met with praise and criticism. Here, we present several perspectives on this momentous decision.

A fall sunset over the Bears Ears butte.  Tim Peterson
 

By Felicity Barringer

President Barack Obama has unveiled two major land use decisions, creating new national monuments in southeastern Utah and southeastern Nevada, both centered around the rich archaeological resources of early Native American civilizations.

The 1.9 million acre Bears Ears National Monument proposed for federal lands in southeastern Utah. View a detailed map of the proposed area– and the final designation from Dec. 28.

In the Four Corners area of Utah, 1.35 million acres of San Juan Country are now Bears Ears National Monument — almost 500,000 fewer acres than a tribal coalition had requested. In Nevada, the 300,000 protected acres around the new Gold Butte National Monument lie east of the Overton Arm of Lake Mead, west of the Arizona border, south of Virgin Peak, and north of the Colorado River.

A government statement announcing the designations, which have been bitterly opposed by some residents, included language seeming to rebut both past and future complaints. It said in part, “both areas contain land sacred to Native American tribes, important cultural sites, and fragile wildlife habitat. The monument designations maintain currently authorized uses of the land that do not harm the resources protected by the monument, including tribal access and traditional collection of plants and firewood, off-highway vehicle recreation, hunting and fishing and authorized grazing.”

As a recent issue of High Country News explained, people of many cultures call the region home. In the 1860s, Navajos were brutally evicted from the area by U.S. troops. Within the proposed monument lands are countless sites with a rich trove of rock art and artifacts left by the ancestors of modern Zuni and Hopi Natives — sites that have been looted for years. The area is also a touchstone for Mormon settlers descended from members of the Hole in the Rock expedition, who nearly died on their pioneering journey to the region in 1879. Its mineral resources have kept it on the radar of the mining industry. A rival proposal for state control of the area had been pending in Congress.

The Dec. 28 announcement prompted the swift release of angry statements — collected by The Salt Lake Tribune and by KTSU Television in Salt Lake City — from Utah’s Republication legislators.

Sen. Orrin Hatch said, “For Utahns in general, and for those in San Juan County in particular, this is an affront of epic proportions and an attack on an entire way of life.” He added, “The President was never meant to set aside millions of acres against the express wishes of local communities and their elected representatives.” And Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s statement called the action a “midnight monument [which] is a slap in the face to the people of Utah…”

On the other side of the question were conservation groups like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. It executive director, Scott Groene, said in a statement, "We applaud the President's decision and congratulate the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition for this historic protection of their ancestral homeland. The Monument will long benefit Utahns and Americans. It is the product of years of public discussion where all agreed this landscape is worthy of permanent protection.”

National monument declarations are rarely revoked. The question now is the response of Donald J. Trump’s administration to President Obama’s declaration. The Salt Lake Tribune quoted Sen. Hatch saying, "In the next Congress under President Trump, I will do everything in my power to reverse this travesty.”

Six weeks ago, …& the West blog hosted a forum on Bear’s Ears. Two contributors supported a monument; two opposed it. Here are their views, along with the numerous comments on the debate. Maps of the original proposal and the final boundaries are also available.

Debate & the West

Should Bears Ears be designated a national monument?

Yes

Jim Enote
Zuni farmer and director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center

Yes

Anna Elza Brady
Strategist for Utah Diné Bikéyah, a Native-led nonprofit organization

No

Joe Lyman
Blanding town council member and third generation resident

 

 

Reader Comments

Submit your own thoughts and questions by using the form at the bottom of this page. Entries will be reviewed and posted as we get them.

Joe B. Lyman (Contributor)

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

Those who promote the Bears Ears monument shout Protect, Protect, Protect but fail to realize or believe that the protections they seek are largely already in place - the land is already Federally controlled - and that the monument designation will destroy that which they seek to protect.

They also speak of taking the land from the Native peoples. The LOCAL native people overwhelmingly feel the monument does just that, takes away their land.

11/16/16, 8:31am

Kara Laws

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

NO!

It will destroy the land far more than protecting it. And the local and federal government has already said co-management with the tribes is illegal. This is NOT what the Antiquities Act was created for. This is abuse of the act.

11/16/16, 8:33am

Byron Clarke

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

I have lived in Blanding my entire life and am Navajo. The idea of a paid council comprised of representatives that live hours away is concerning. A volunteer local council that includes various other members of various communities alongside native Americans would be far better.

11/16/16, 10:47am

Shelley Silbert

Responding to Why Oppose the Bears Ears National Monument?

Thank you for this discussion on Bears Ears. I do want to point out that Joe Lyman’s piece states that property rights exist in the area, including “18,000 acres of private property”, as well as 43 grazing allotments, 661 water-rights, and 151,000 acres of State Trust land. Yes, there is private property, but it would remain private property under monument designation and would NOT go under federal control or be included in a national monument boundary. Grazing allotments would continue once the monument is declared, as they have in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. State Trust land will not be affected by the monument – it can still be sold or leased by the state, and will likely become more valuable if a monument is declared. Lyman implies that something sinister will happen to these property rights, but the monument affects federal land only and the existing rights on federal lands will continue (including existing mineral claims, grazing permits, etc.) subject to the same management that occurs on other federal lands. One principle change from a monument designation -- federal lands within the monument boundary would not be open to new oil, gas, or other mineral development.

11/16/16, 1:21pm

Kelly Mike Green

Responding to Why Oppose the Bears Ears National Monument?

A Bears Ears Monument is the wrong way to manage this area. A monument would prevent us from being able to use roads and trails to visit sacred family spots where an ancestor was killed. A monument would create more restrictive measures for off road travel use.

11/16/16, 5:06pm

Wendy

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

So many people are only willing to hear or publish one side. Thanks for getting both sides. I do not want a Monument. The hordes of people will never be a protection of this area. They will collect, displace and hurt archeological sites. Asking for this size of protected area when in reality the area the antiquities act really pertains to is much smaller. Federal government should never impose on a people a designation that will harm, hurt or negatively affect them.

11/16/16, 10:28pm

Jean Struthers Los Altos Hills, CA

Responding to The Bears Ears Monument Proposal: A Closer Look

As population grows we need all the open spaces we can get. It is important to preserve the ancient artifacts for the future children to know and see.

11/17/16, 9:10am

Veronica Egan Teasdale, UT

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

The opponents of the Bears Ears National Monument deignation have to rely on spurious, innacurate claims. No one, especially Native Americans, will lose access, the antiquities in the area have certainly not been protected adequately, existing grazing permits will be maintained, and on and on. This is an extremely vulnerable, beautiful place that deserves all of the protection it can get.

11/17/16, 5:03pm

Amanda Podmore Bluff, UT

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

Thank you for taking a look at both sides of this complex and at times emotional issue. The many different perspectives in the discussion usually agree on the same thing: this landscape is deserving of protection and the status quo isn't working. Unfortunately, the Bears Ears Cultural Landscape is less than “relatively pristine” and is under greater threat than ever from mounting oil & gas interest in the area. In fact, the southeastern boundaries of the monument, which can be justified for protection under the Antiquities Act because of the cultural resources they shelter, are being proposed for drilling right now. Stanford was remiss in excluding a local pro-monument perspective: many locals in San Juan County and the Four Corners support a Bears Ears National Monument. In fact, several local businesses have recently spoken out in support of a monument because of the urgent need for resources, personnel and regulatory protection to help preserve cultural resources that are being destroyed by under-managed visitation, energy development, and illegal off-road vehicle use. A monument is fraught with downsides but in the meantime, the status quo is not sufficiently protecting Bears Ears.

11/17/16, 5:13pm

Mary M Buxton Los Gatos, CA

Responding to The Bears Ears Monument Proposal: A Closer Look

I am a big fan of the National Parks and would love to see this area preserved as a National Monument for selfish reasons. However, there are local factions who feel their rights and way of life would be transgressed by this National Monument being established. This is eye opening to me as preserving open space and geographic / cultural landscapes has alway seemed like a virtuous thing to do. If there's anything I've learned from the recent election, it is to listen to those who feel disenfranchised. So, I hope there has been a process of community dialogue to hammer out whatever compromises possible and that it would continue. At some point, Congress will have to vote to designate this monument and then there will be winners and losers.

11/18/16, 5:48am

Dave Pacheco Salt Lake City, Utah

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

I support Bears Ears National Monument as proposed by the tribes. This is our nation's best opportunity to begin righting some horrific wrongs of the past and start the long process of healing -- for ALL Americans. It's no leap to describe what happened a short 130 years ago, to human beings who lived on these lands for millenia before “settlers” arrived, as a practice and policy of cultural genocide. To merely bring Native voices as equals to the management table over our collective public lands is overdue and not too much to ask. The “locals” in San Juan County are those responsible for the continuing loss of cultural heritage of tribes whose ancestor's graves are being looted and desecrated of artifacts to sell on the black market. It's time for change in San Juan County and it's time all Americans extend a respectful policy and equal treatment of our country's original inhabitants.

11/18/16, 8:15am

Kay Shumway Blanding, Utah

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

The much smaller area where most of the valuable Anazazi ruin are located is Cedar Mesa. I can see making Cedar Mesa a National Conservation area where cultural resource preservation could be possible with educational signage, trail construction, and increased supervision, would be a good thing. To see Cedar Mesa swallowed up in a huge National Monument means that fewer resources will be available for the part that really matters. This will be a bad thing for the protection of Cedar Mesa.

11/18/16, 10:33am

Bill Crowder Bluff, UT

Responding to Not On Board With the Bears Ears Crusade

Even though Mr. Hurst begins by imagining a cartoon character tourist, he makes thoughtful observations. I disagree with his conclusions.

Blanding is not the community nearest the proposed Bears Ears Monument. Bluff and White Mesa are. Bluff overwhelmingly supports designation of the existing public/federal land as a Monument. As do the White Mesa Utes. As do all but one of the 110 Navajo chapter houses. As do the the descendents of the Ancestral Puebloans. The locals are far from being uniformly against the Monument. Settling an issue in deference to what only a fraction of the small, local population wants is not good policy for public lands or for America.

The overriding problem is that the present system is not working. It does not contain the protections that Monument designation would provide. As Mr. Hurst, to his credit, has long recognized, the thousands of Native American sites and the historic Mormon sites are being steadily destroyed through looting, energy extraction (think drilling and fracking), overgrazing, tourism, and thoughtless offroad damage caused by a small minority of the quad running enthusiasts.

There is this long running, selfish thought that being lucky enough to live near public lands means that you get to control the use of that area, even to the detriment of the public. Public land means control belongs to all Americans, not just the people lucky enough to live nearby. This thought runs counter to our being the United States of America. We are not just an isolated community with no responsibility to the rest of our Country.

Mr. Hurst believes that the way forward is to accede to the right wing in the hopes that somehow a non-liberal president will convince the right wing to become reasonable, and that this area will then be recognized for what it is and preserved. My thought is that we need to engage head on with the forces promoting this turning of our public land to their private uses/abuses. Time is running out to preserve this area. As the last eight years have demonstrated, the right wing is not open to give and take discussions. Even if its intransigence takes our country down.

It is beyond dispute that change is coming to San Juan County. More tourists, more off road vehicles, more extractive industry, more development. We need to be able to exercise some control over that change. Monument designation will not be a cure all. But it is our best , and most likely, only hope.

The local communities on both sides of this dispute have the same love of this area. Our differences lie in how best to preserve it. We need to respect each other, but we also have to make changes to avoid being swept aside by the flood approaching us.

11/18/16, 11:15am

Josh Ewing Bluff, UT

Responding to Why Oppose the Bears Ears National Monument?

While I respect Joe as a local business leader, we should all take his factual assertions with skepticism. His claim that local Navajo are overwhelming against the monument are not substantiated by any facts. To the contrary, only one of the 7 Utah Navajo chapters is against; the others have supported protection. Likewise, his assertions of grazing permits being property rights are not supported by any valid case law.

A Monument is by no means the best solution, but it's the only practical solution given refusal by Utah politicians to be reasonable and protect an internationally significant landscape. We have no one to blame for a Monument but ourselves for sticking our heads in the sand and pretending issues don't exist. Far before all this Monument talk, visitation to Cedar Mesa was skyrocketing, without resources to manage and educate new visitors. Ongoing looting and vandalism continues. I've personally witnessed 6 serious incidents so far this year. Folks who have no respect for the law disregard the rules and drive where ever they want. Those who only care for profiting from the land plot oil rigs in archaeological and recreationally sensitive areas. None of these problems get solved by doing nothing. If we as a community really care about the land, we needed to be proactive. That didn't happen. So now the only alternative is a Monument.

Regarding the headline for this piece, this landscape is full of objects. Not just one object would be protected by a Monument or a National Conservation Area. Archaeologists estimate there could easily be 250,000 archaeological sites in Bears Ears. Conservatively, there are easily 100,000 sites. There are many important sites NOT in the Bears Ears but in San Juan County, especially the Recapture and Montezuma Creek drainages. So really, a much larger monument would be needed to protect all the important “objects of antiquity” in San Juan County.

11/18/16, 11:48am

Josh Ewing Bluff, UT

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

I am disappointed in the Stanford Center for the West for blindly following the narrative about local people being against a monument and “outsiders” being for. By choosing two locals who work a few blocks from each other to represent local opinion, the Center fails to provide readers a true picture of local sentiment. Virtually the entire town of Bluff, including it's elected officials and businesses, support the Monument as the only practical way to protect this area. Of course a few disagree, but it would not have been hard to find a local to San Juan County to explain their support.

Likewise, responsible journalism does not simply publish false and unsubstantiated claims. Opinion is one thing, but when Joe Lyman makes easily disputed factual claims, some basic fact checking is called for. Just as giving climate deniers equal time with real scientists is irresponsible, so is publishing factually inaccurate claims with no effort or requirement that writers substantiate facts.

I expect this sort of “false balance” from many Utah-based media outlets. But I would expect more from Stanford.

11/18/16, 11:57am

Josh Ewing Bluff, UT

Responding to Not On Board With the Bears Ears Crusade

Winston is the foremost archaeologist in southeastern Utah. I have enormous respect and gratitude for his work to document and understand this cultural landscape. I can relate to his questioning of government as being the only solution. And I can understand his desire to not have a Monument further divide our community.

However, I am disappointed he chooses to disparage well intentioned locals working in good faith to try to protect this landscape from numerous real threats by supporting the Monument as our last resort, after other efforts (e.g. the PLI) have failed. Just documenting these sites doesn't protect them. It's incumbent on those of us who want to see these resources endure to have practical solutions. No solutions are perfect, but the status quo is clearly failing. These lands are important to all Americans and particularly Native American decedents of those who inhabited the area and created all the archaeology Winston loves. To allow some locals who are against anything done by the federal government to have the only say would be irresponsible.

Rather than provide any sort of real plan as an alternative to a Monument, Winston argues that we should just stand by and watch destruction while trying “win hearts and minds” of locals. He admits this could take generations, if it is indeed possible to get some folks to see the land as something to nurture rather than profit from. More importantly, his argument assumes it's locals doing the most damage. I argue our largest issue is educating, managing, and directing visitors from outside of San Juan County. Winning hearts and minds of locals does little to address this issue, while resources and a Monument management plan could help us create real strategies for directing visitors in ways that will minimize impacts. Letting Google continue to manage this area by default isn't a viable strategy.

I hope Winston's great sense of humor will allow him to chuckle at my concluding line: God save us from cynical archaeologists whose solution is to stick our head in the desert sand and do nothing!

11/18/16, 12:18am

Mark Meloy Bluff, Utah

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

At this point in time, President Obama is the only one who can provide permanent protection for Southeast Utah prehistory. Those who want protection need to rally around him. Those who criticize the monument approach without offering a viable alternative are dooming any increased protection in the foreseeable future. A national treasure will disappear before our eyes. Just about all of us in Bluff, gateway community to the Bears Ears, see the monument as good and necessary. Are we not even more local, than our northern neighbors?

11/18/16, 1:40pm

Joy Howell Mexican Hat

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

99 Billion people are buried on this earth. Think about that.

Are we nothing more than a great cemetery that needs protection from living beings? Or, is this just an excuse? A means to an end?

The majority of people have great respect for the ancient and not so ancient sites. The few who don’t have become a weapon...for who?

It’s like forbidding ALL of the 1st graders to go to recess because ONE is a little brat. Grow up! I’m so tired of the overused words ‘sacred, fragile...’ I know for a fact that MY ancestors would prefer humanity survive, however we must do it.

What is a ‘resource’? According to Webster it’s “a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively”.

So...one ‘side’ see’s archeological sites as a resource. The only one worth ‘extracting’ (whether literally as has been done & is legal for the gov’t sponsored hobbyist or through the extraction of money from the pockets of tourists).

Others want to protect the ‘current’ way of life, for the living, by extracting real goods to heat our homes, fuel our vehicles, feed our families. We have seen the changes, the road closures, the permitting now necessary to cool off in a river or on the mountain that is within walking distance of our homes, to be able to drive a 4-wheeler (yes!) into an area not otherwise accessible for the elderly or handicapped or just plain out of shape! We are sick and tired of elitist forbidding us to enjoy our own back yard. The threat of no longer having access unless by permit...will that be a 2 year waiting list like floating the river is?

We no longer believe you!!!

Bluff is AS close to the proposed monument the way the crow flies, however, the communities who are closer by road access are in this order: Mexican Hat, Blanding, Monticello, White Mesa, Bluff, Monument Valley, Montezuma Creek, Aneth.

Gateway Community? If Bluff was the community that would be affected the most then perhaps they would have a bigger voice, however, you can see that is clearly not the case.

Aside from all the rhetoric...not one bit of it even meets the requirements of the Antiquities Act, much less the Constitution of the United States of America.

America has spoken through the ballot box. The Party’s Over.

11/19/16, 12:48am

Verlyn Hawks Bountiful, UT

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

Josh Ewing, I have never met you nor have I met Winston Hurst. I don't know you so I hesitate to use the term extreme but I did find your comments about “God protect us cynical archaeologists whose solution is to stick our head in the desert sand and do nothing” - extreme or at least an exaggeration and off-base - at least according to what I got from Winston's comments. Actually to me it seemed that Winston was the more level headed one of the two of you and seemed to have a feel for what might happen if this moves forward. What I got from Winston's comments actually seems to line up with what happened in the recent presidential election. Mind you that I didn't vote for Trump and I don't like him... but from what I gather from the media and analysts it sounds like too many people in the country felt like they didn't have a voice and took the “Trump route” to express their opposition to a “Top Down” government and indeed tipped not just the state but half of the country into a “full-on, full-court press effort to roll back government”. You might recognize the quoted parts as a direct phrase from this comment of Winston's.

“One more top-down monument designation by a liberal President might be just the thing to tip this conservative state into a full-on, full-court-press effort to roll back government to something resembling the unbalanced, bulldoze-everything attitudes of the early 20th century. In their deep hearts, I fear the right-wing pack leaders are hoping for it.”

Now following the election we half the country up in arms about what Trump is going to “roll-back” and we have the other half pushing for him to roll things back.

My point is that pushing for this large of area to be a national monument is extreme and a blatant slap in the face of the locals who have lived and worked there for generations. That extreme effort will - and indeed apparently has- caused a backlash of the nature Winston was afraid of.

Pushing for a monument via a overly exercised “Antiquities act” that does not incorporate “the voice of the people” in typical legislative manner is also extreme. And I would not be surprised to see a backlash on revoking the antiquities act as well - then how would you feel?

Using hidden agendas and hidden meetings to formulate and then channel the monument effort through a so called “tribal proposal” is also manipulate and extreme. That leads to the “other side” holding secret meetings and pushing for hidden agendas.

I'm not saying there are not extreme measures and words being said on the other side as well.

That's the sad part about it.

Why do we have to resort to the extreme and the exaggeration? When did civil discussions and compromise go out the door?

What I heard Winston saying is that if one side bullies or pushes the other side too much and fails to listen to them and understand where they are coming from then it can cause - no I think it has caused - a “rebellion”.

Josh, you apparently love the Bears Ears country and want it protected but other people have things they feel as deeply. You want to protect “artifacts” and “objects” . Every single place I know of has artifacts and objects from previous generations and cultures. The Wasatch front where I live has had many cultures and peoples that lived here. So has Scotland and England where my heritage is from. Do we try and preserve and protect all of that or do we just have museums and parks and small monuments to preserve selected parts. Do we try to protect huge tracts of land all over the world just because someone lived there? No, lets pick the choicest ruins and canyons and buttes and selectively protect them. Trying to overreach and protect everything eventually will lead to protecting nothing.

And what of the people in the area? How do they rate against “artifacts” and “Objects”. If pressed to make a choice I personally favor educating and preserving and strengthening the living generation rather than protecting the artifacts of the generations now past. But there doesn't have to be choice. We can and certainly should preserve some of our history and learn from and respect the cultures of the past, but definitely, certainly not at the expense of the living generation. When the artifacts of the dead become more important than the livelihood and culture and families of the living - it seems to me that something is wrong.

I also love the Bears Ears area. I've backpacked Hammond and other canyons multiple times, I've done canyoneering in a number of the canyons within the proposed area. I hiked and driven a great deal through that beautiful area. In fact just over a month ago I stood on the top of the East Bears ear and watched the sun set. It was beautiful but ironically I felt sad rather than the peace I normally feel there. I felt sad that there is so much division in the area.

So in wrap-up - no I'm not in favor of the current proposed Bears Ears monument or the manner in which is has come about and been pushed. I am most certainly in favor of preserving selected areas of the proposed monument using a process that involves the “voice of the people”. And I am definitely not in favor of the extreme words and actions - on both sides of the argument.

There has to be a better way.

Let's listen to and learn from and understand each other and find compromise and a way where both sides can have a win.

11/20/16, 9:19am

Bill Crowder Bluff, UT

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

Objectors to the Monument designation argue, “What value is it if it can't be used?” This is the fundamental position of the objectors to designation of the Monument: a small group of locals' specific economic interests trump all other Americans' generic interests, both local and national.

This is the heart of the dispute.

If these objectors had been willing to negotiate on the Public Lands Initiative, this impasse would not exist. Now, it is unfortunately down to a yes or no decision.

Probably both sides will not be happy with the decision. Is that the sign of a fair resolution?

11/20/16, 10:31am

Janet Wilcox San Juan County, Utah

Responding to Weighing the Future of Bears Ears Butte

Both Bill Crowder and Mark Meloy, criticize San Juan County for not having a viable solution for protecting public land; however, they did have a collaborative solution of what could be done. It was the San Juan County PLI-- not to be confused with the current version in Congress. And “No,” Josh Ewing, a national monument is not “the only practical way to protect this area.”

The San Juan County PLI group had worked for 3 years with all vested interests and differing views at the table, and they came up with a decision that was a workable compromise. At that time they were focusing on protecting the much smaller Cedar Mesa area, and a northern conservancy district. Even the Conservation Lands Foundation up through October 2014 was referring to the designation as “Cedar Mesa” as part of their “current campaign” (i.e. meaning dumping manpower and money into having that part of San Juan County designated as a National Monument.)

Then Brooke and Terry Tempest Williams held a soiree (the Saturday after Thanksgiving 2014) which Josh Ewing by the way, attended. Scott Groene from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance asked Jonah how he felt about the north boundary being extended up through Canyonlands. “The more land the better”, Jonah said. “We are with you.” There a hand picked group of 12 “no negotiation” activists, orchestrated a unilateral change to the scope of what should be “protected.” Ms Williams clearly states in her book, “The Hour of Land, exactly how the evening played out, should you want more information on how that disastrous turn for the worse began.

In a letter Terry Tempest Williams wrote to Secretary Sally Jewell a few weeks later, Dec. 21, 2014, she describes a visit to Washington DC. and says, “The Navajo leadership returned home with a ‘perceived’ directive from the Department of the Interior to ‘disengage’ from a local, collaborative vision.” So don’t be blaming San Juan County leadership or citizens for lack of cooperation, or vision, or a desire to help protect this important landscape. When Jonah Yellowman agreed that the original designation should be expanded and blown up to 1.9 million acres (thus eventually renamed Bears Ears), this extreme environmental group felt free to “pillage and burn” state’s rights, local input, and the reputation of San Juan County citizens. We were high jacked, and made to look like the bad guy, by every environmental web site and lobby group in the nation. It has been yellow journalism at its best. I think it’s time that compromise be introduced back into your vocabulary and into the discussion.

11/21/16, 2:19pm

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Articles Worth Reading: May 20, 2019

California Announces Ban on Chlorpyrifos, a toxic pesticide that affects child brain development. California, one of the nation’s largest agricultural states and the nation’s top chlorpyrifos consumer, uses the pesticide on crops such as oranges, grapes, and almonds. Governor Newsom proposed $5.7 million to support the transition to alternatives. The ban follows similar legislation in Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Washington Post

Report Shows Hazardous Air Quality in 96% of National Parks, with some of the most popular parks such as Joshua Tree, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon, and Mojave being the worst offenders. The study by the National Parks Conservation Association showed that ozone levels in these parks were considered dangerous for up to two months. Air pollution has a lasting impact on visitor and park health, and contributes to climate change. Over the last two decades, air pollution in national parks has been comparable that of the 20 largest cities in the United States. The Guardian

Plans for Arizona Mine Spark Controversy as its construction was approved by the Trump administration. Conservation groups are standing together to sue the federal government to block construction. They claim that the proposed $1.9 billion Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains would destroy jaguar habitats. Three Native American tribes are also objecting to the approval of the project, arguing that construction would harm remnants of sacred sites. This would be the third-biggest copper mine in the country. Arizona Republic

Supreme Court Rules Treaty Lets Crow Tribal Members Hunt on Public Lands, reversing the decision of Wyoming courts that fined Clayvin Herrera for illegally killing an elk in the Bighorn National Forest. The decision upheld the validity of an 1868 treaty that granted tribal members “the right to hunt on occupied lands of the United States so long as game may be found thereon.” Wyoming had argued the treaty was voided by the declaration of Wyoming’s statehood in 1890 and the creation of the national forest in 1897. They argued “Wyoming statehood was not just a legal event, it was a recognition the once wild frontier was no more. And the Crow Tribe understood that its hunting right had ended.” The Supreme Court disagreed. Casper Star-Tribune

Treaties Secure Environmental Protections for Tribal Nations such as the Tulalip Tribe in Washington State. Climate change, which is eroding shorelines and affecting water in the Puget Sound, is a daily fight for the tribe. Nationwide, treaty rights have been the foundation for tribes securing major land and water victories over the past couple decades. Tribes have the potential to call the United States government to action regarding addressing climate change. High Country News NPR

The Energy Department is Actively Working to Save Montana’s Colstrip Power Plant, or its fossil energy chief told the state’s two senators. Colstrip, located east of Billings, is one of a grow-ing number of coal plants that are facing closure thanks to the rise of national gas and renewables and increasing customer aversion to coal-fired energy. The huge 2,094-megawatt plant has been on the ropes economically, but the Energy Department is investigating if technology to capture carbon-dioxide emissions could prove useful to enhancing recovery of oil in nearby oil fields. Utility Dive

Articles Worth Reading: May 6, 2019

California’s Latest Weapon in the Fight Against Climate Change is carbon farming, the process of absorbing carbon from the air and moving it to be stored in the soil. Through the Healthy Soils initiative, now in its third year, farmers can receive grants to grow plants on their farms that soak up carbon dioxide. A report found that farms and forests could absorb up to 20 percent of the state’s emissions. KQED

Basking Sharks Spotted off Southern California Coast for the first time in three decades. The basking shark, the second-largest shark species, can grow up to 8,000 pounds and 33 feet long. These gentle giants have recently been spotted off of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Santa Monica Bay, and San Pedro. One of the causes of their decline was fishermen killing them when they got caught in salmon nets. Sightings could mean that their population is starting to recover, or that climate change is affecting their habitat patterns. Orange County Register

The Blackfeet Nation Hopes to Open National Park in northwestern Montana to educate tourists about the story of their tribe. The Nation, which once owned half of Glacier National Park, sold the land to the federal government in the late 1800s. Members of the Blackfeet Nation hope to reassert the tribe’s place in the region’s history, protect the reservation’s natural resources, and provide new opportunities for indigenous people to benefit from the tourism economy. High Country News

Río Fernando de Taos Revitalization Collaborative Tackles Watershed Problems to improve the health of an important New Mexico river. The collaborative is working to improve water quality and infrastructure, as the river contains high levels of E. coli and has low water levels. The alliance of organizations includes the Taos Valley Acequia Association, Taos Land Trust, Amigos Bravos, The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited, the town of Taos, Taos County, and the U.S. Forest Service. Taos News

Advocates Criticize Final Version of Recovery Plan for Endangered Jaguar that was released Wednesday, April 24, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The jaguar, once inhabiting wide areas of the United States, was killed off in the early 1900s under a government policy aimed at big predators. The plan, which carved out narrow sections of protected habitat for jaguars along the Arizona and New Mexico borders, is seen by environmentalists as a way to push the species out of the country. Arizona Republic

Articles Worth Reading: April 22, 2019

A Divided Senate Confirmed David Bernhardt as Interior Department Secretary by a 56-41 vote on April 11. Three Democrats split from their party to join all voting Republicans in supporting the Colorado native and former lobbyist. Over the years, in his private sector experience, Bernhardt has represented a variety of clients including California’s Westlands Water District and the Independent Petroleum Association of America. E&E News

Judge Rules Environmental Analysis Required Before Ending Coal Mining Ban on public lands. A federal district judge in Montana said that the Interior Department was wrong to overturn the Obama-era ban on coal leasing without doing any sort of environmental review. The ruling did not, however, reinstate the ban or prescribe exactly how the current Interior Department must conduct its environmental review. The New York Times

President Trump Signed Bill Endorsing Colorado River Drought Plan setting out an agreement among seven western states on how to draw less water from the river. Two separate plans were negotiated for the states of river’s Upper Basin — Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico — and for those in its Lower Basin — Arizona, Nevada, and California. The plan aims to protect the Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs, whose levels have been declining to critical levels due to 19 years of drought and overuse. But the largest holder of Colorado River water rights, the Imperial Irrigation District in far southeastern California, has sued to block the agreement, saying it should include measures to contain environmental damage around the dying Salton Sea. Arizona Republic Desert Sun

California’s Karuk Tribe Battles to Protect Itself from Fire Threats amid drier forests and rising temperatures. With none of California’s large emergency assistance budget being allocated to the state’s 106 tribal nations, the Karuk tribe must compete with other tribes for grants or prescribe burns to protect their 1 million acres of territory. Compared to other ethnic communities, Native Americans are more likely to live in areas with the highest potential for wildfires and the lowest capacity for response and recovery. High Country News

Chemical Taints California Water in Paradise, California, where 85 people died last year in the nation’s worst wildfire in a century. The chemical benzene, which occurs naturally in fire and is linked to leukemia and anemia, got sucked into water pipes, largely thanks to plastic melting during the fire. It will take two years and up to $300 million before Paradise residents can safely use local water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. Associated Press

A Black Market for Eagle Feathers is being driven by Native American demand. The feathers, which are believed to bring well-being and prosperity, have grown in demand due to the development of modern ceremonial traditions such as the powwow and the Native American church. With poaching rampant on the reservations, federal laws have tried to protect eagles by permitting the building of aviaries by tribes for religious practices. Audubon Society

Wild Horses Find Homes After Controversial Roundup last fall, which some believed would end in the horses being sold to Mexico for food. Out of 261 wild horses rounded up from the Modoc Plateau and moved to corrals in Modoc County, all but 30 have been placed in homes. After the roundup, they were housed over the winter in the Double Devil Wild Horse Corral and were fed and cared for by the Forest Service and volunteers. San Francisco Chronicle

Articles Worth Reading: April 9, 2019

California’s High Water Puts Oroville Dam’s Repaired Spillway to Use for the first time since the crisis that caused an evacuation. In 2017, storms caused the spillway to break apart and flood; nearly 200,000 people were forced to flee. Repairs cost $1.1 billion, and this is the first time since those renovations that excess water was drained into the spillway. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Measurements of the Health Impacts from Oil and Natural Gas Extraction May Be Indequate, A UCLA study reviewed three dozen journal articles published over the past six years and found a positive correlation between individuals’ poor health and their proximity to fossil fuel extraction operations. High levels of suspected carcinogens such as benzene, toluene, and ethyl-benzene have been measured at oil and natural gas sites. Science Daily

California Adopts New Wetland Protections to Counteract Federal Rollback. A new state policy plan will counteract the proposed rollbacks. The state regulation establishes protections for human activity, preventing some areas from being paved over or plowed. California’s waterways, 90 percent of which have been lost to human sprawl, are important for drinking water, flood protection, groundwater recharge and wildlife. San Francisco Chronicle

Trout Lovers Trek To the Río Grande to See Juvenile Cutthroat Added to the river at Questa’s Cutthroat Fish Festival. Relocating cutthroat to expand their populations has become an annual tradition in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area near Cerro, New Mexico. Conservationists have worked for decades to increase the native cutthroat population in northern New Mexico. Almost 10,000 trout were relocated during this year’s event. Taos News

More Mexican Gray Wolves Roam the Southwest now than at any time since the Fish and Wildlife Service began protecting them more than two decades ago. The population has jumped about 12 percent since its brink of extinction in the early 2000s. Mexican gray wolves are the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America, with a population of at least 131 in New Mexico and Arizona combined. E&E News

Fish Numbers Plummet As Pumping and Invasive Clams Upend the Food Web in the San Francisco estuary, a new study from the University of California, Davis, reveals. Microscopic algae called phytoplankton are at the base of the food web (phytoplankton are food for zooplankton, which are food for fish). Clams, brought in the holds of oceangoing vessels, and freshwater pumping by California’s two major water delivery projects have cut phytoplankton by 97 percent from the late 1960s, prompting a similar dramatic drop in the number of fish. Daily Democrat

Articles Worth Reading: March 26, 2019

New Mexico Governor Signs Law Mandating the State’s Energy Supply Be Carbon-Free by 2045; a bold move that puts the state in the forefront of the cities and states that have passed legislation to fight climate change. The law allows for state bonds to provide support for the state’s major utility to shut down the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in the Four Corners area and creates funds for support and retraining of workers at the plant. It also mandates new apprenticeships so New Mexico workers can enter the clean-energy workplaces of the future. Albuquerque Journal

The San Joaquin Valley Aquifer Lost Five Percent of Its Carrying Capacity in the first two decades of the 21st century, thanks to severe droughts and the resulting over-pumping, according to new research from Arizona State University. Groundwater in aquifers accumulates in “pore spaces” between rocks and grains of sand. The elasticity of these pores, which close when water is withdrawn, means they usually rebound when groundwater is recharged. But if too much is withdrawn and the pore spaces close too far, their elasticity is gone and the aquifer’s capacity shrinks irreversibly. American Geophysical Union

The Colorado Drought Contingency Plan Is Now Before Congress, as representatives of all seven Colorado River states, including California, ended their arguments and agreed on a final version. Bypassed were the demands of the Imperial Irrigation District for $200 million in federal funds to clean up the fetid and deteriorating Salton Sea. Successive droughts have meant that the Colorado River, which serves 40 million people and 7,812 square miles of farmland, needed new agreements for dividing water in times of shortage. After California’s Colorado River Board, by an 8-to-1 vote, provided the final state’s approval, state representatives met in Phoenix with a top federal water official and sent a letter to Congress seeking its approval. The plan sets up new formulas for water use if Lake Mead drops below a crucial level during a prolonged drought. Desert Sun Salt Lake Tribune

Mining, Drilling and Grazing Now Easier as the Sage Grouse Management Plan of 2015 Loses Its Bite. The old plan was a cooperative effort to ensure the birds, several hundred thousand of which live in the oil-rich rangeland of 11 western states, didn’t decline so far that endangered species protections would kick in. The old program set out special “focal areas” requiring protections for the chicken-sized, ground-nesting birds; these are now gone. Cattlemen felt the 2015 requirements were too rigid and applied at too fine a scale; the 2015 rules also required that energy leasing in some areas be prioritized away from areas best suited to the grouse. A Center For Western Priorities representative said, the changes mean “the administration will drive the sage grouse closer to an endangered species listing.” Associated Press New York Times Wyoming Public Media Western Livestock Journal

The Navajo Generating Station’s Last Possible Savior Won’t Save It. By a 9-to-11 vote, a committee of the Navajo Nation Council rejected a plan for a tribal firm, the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, to explore buying the power plant and the coal mine that supplies it. For the last couple of years, NGS owners had pulled out or signaled they wanted to. The tribal enterprise wanted to save hundreds of jobs held by Navajos. But the barriers to this solution included a demand by the power plant’s owners for a cap on the liability for cleanup, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Seth Damon, the council’s speaker, said the “Navajo Nation Council signaled that it is time for change. In order to develop a healthy and diverse economy that does not overly rely on any particular industry, the … council will advance new and innovative development initiatives.” Indian Country Today

Articles Worth Reading: March 11, 2019

New Restrictions on Colorado River Withdrawals in Dry Times Are Close, but the federal Bureau of Reclamation says, in effect, “close only counts in the game of horseshoes.” The Arizona state legislature met the bureau’s deadline as it agreed to the drought contingency plan formulated by all three states in the river’s lower basin, but the final deals with Native tribes and with California’s Imperial Irrigation District aren’t done yet. The arguments go on. Cronkite News

Native Trout Are Making a Comeback in Colorado, but It’s Taken Decades. As the West was colonized, so were its streams; native fish suffered as non-native ones were introduced. The native greenback cutthroat trout was mistakenly declared extinct in 1937, but its history turns out to be much more complicated. Today, the subspecies survives, but barely, and scientists do not agree on a solution for the fish’s future. Biographic

Ranchers in Montana Want Consumers to Know Where Beef Comes From. The U.S. imports roughly 10 percent of its beef -- from countries like Canada, Argentina and Uruguay -- but it doesn’t have to be labeled as such. Country of origin labeling, Montana ranchers argue, will help consumers make more informed choices--and think it will be good for business. If passed, a bill in the Montana State Senate would require this labeling, as well as prohibit labeling as “meat” the cell-based meat now grown in vitro in laboratories. That decision which could be detrimental to this nascent industry. Civil Eats

Sustainable Development and Gentrification Do Not Have to Go Hand in Hand. An affordable housing project in an industrial, low-income neighborhood of Portland could show the country how green infrastructure can help alleviate poverty and keep communities intact. This project includes weatherization of mobile homes and sustainable landscaping. High Country News

We Need Maps to Comprehend the Scale of the Grand Canyon. Be careful, though–some maps are more attractive than they are accurate. As the iconic national park’s 100th anniversary approaches, listen to the Science Friday podcast explore the history of Western mapmaking through the lens of the maps of the Grand Canyon. Science Friday

Art Installations Thrive in the Coachella Valley. Desert X, a biennial art exhibit, opened this past weekend. It showcases art in mediums that range from fabric to cell phone, all to connect people with the valley and its human history. Explore some of the installations in this photo gallery. The Desert Sun

Graphics & the West

Where California Grows Its Food

See the most detailed survey ever done of crops and land use in California. It covers nine million acres of land devoted to grapes, alfalfa, cotton, plums, you name it – food for people and animals all over the world. View map »

California's Changing Energy Mix

A look at the energy sources California utilities have used gives us insights into the state’s progress in decarbonizing its electricity supply. In 2015, 35% of total electricity generation (in-state generation plus imported electricity) came from zero-greenhouse-gas sources, which include solar, wind, hydropower, and nuclear. View Graphic »

U.S. Conservation Easements

Conservation easements of various kinds cover more than 22 million acres of land in the United States, according to the National Conservation Easement Database, a public-private partnership. Take a look at our interactive map of nearly every conservation easement, with details on over 130,000 sites. View map »

 

Recent Center News

Jun 17 2019 | ... & the West Blog, ... & the Best | Stories Recommended by the ‘... & the West’ Blog
The BLM moves forward with the one of the world’s largest solar developments on federal land near Las Vegas; an obscure global cactus trade blooms illegally in Arizona’s federal desertland; prison inmates return to the fields in numbers not seen since the Jim Crow era as immigration policies squeeze migrant labor for agriculture; mysterious barrels labeled with Agent Orange ingredients resurface from the bottom of a lake in Oregon, and other recent news from around the West.
Jun 14 2019 | Stanford News Service | Center News
The new normal for Western wildfires is abnormal, with increasingly bigger and more destructive blazes. Understanding the risks can help communities avert disaster.
Jun 4 2019 | ... & the West Blog
With new rules coming into effect, farmers and municipalities using groundwater must either find more water to support the aquifers or take cropland out of use. To ease the pain, engineers are looking to harness the torrential storms that sometimes blast across the Pacific Ocean and soak California.