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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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What Does it Mean to Live Amid the Heat and Fire? “One truism about the future is that climate change will spare no place. Still, I suspect the threat of warming feels more existential in New Mexico than it does in Minnesota…. The fire risk was so high by June 1 that the U.S. Forest Service closed all 1.6 million acres of the forest to the public. The forecasts for our water supplies are equally grim.…. Staying put may not mean that Colin and I lose what we’ve put into our home, and it may not mean running out of water. But it may mean bearing witness to the slow death of the Rio Grande. It may mean biting our nails every June, hoping this won’t be the year that a mushroom cloud of smoke rises from the Santa Fe Mountains, which are primed for a destructive fire.” High Country News

July 24, 2018

Factory Nut Farms Drain an Aquifer in Arizona; Homes Go Dry. There are 356,000 acres of nut orchards in the Sulphur Spring Valley. And to ensure a constant water supply, farmers can drill a well 1,000 feet deep every 160 acres. As yearly water consumption doubled, the soil in the aquifer collapsed, and the elevation sank 15 feet in places. Now a water-truck delivery services must ensure water for homeowners. Many have abandoned their homes. The New York Times

Endangering the Endangered Species Act? Or Making Sensible Changes? The moves to change the 45-year-old law credited with saving the bald eagle began in Congress, where legislation to change the law has percolated for years. That accelerated this year, and now the Trump Administration proposes major changes. The Washington Post ASU Cronkite News

Feds Returning Mining to a Place That Had Left It Behind. Once a coal town in Colorado’s Western slope, Paonia has transformed itself over the past few decades. It’s now known for wineries, boutiques, galleries and organic farms that draw tourists from nearby ski resorts. But Paonia’s shift away from its fossil fuel roots could be reversed under the Trump administration’s new push to maximize oil and gas leasing on federal land. Reveal/E&E News

Climate Change Leaving Wild Horses Dying of Thirst on the Navajo reservation. Last month, more than 100 were found dead, stuck in thick mud near a dried-up stock pond. Now a dozen volunteers are taking care of 200 other horses of the more than 30,000 horses counted on the reservation in 2016. But because of horses’ competition with cattle for sparse forage, the tribal government hopes to partner with outside groups to get some horses adopted. KJZZ via Elemental

As Wildfires Spread, Scientists Try to Understand Health Impacts. With fires spreading and air quality alerts being called around the West, scientific efforts to correlate the particulates from the widespread smoke have redoubled. Two Colorado universities and the University of Washington are part of an unprecedented effort, costing more than $30 million, to map the fire-sparked air pollution, using aircraft, satellites and vans full of high-tech equipment. Boulder Daily Camera Science Magazine

June 1, 2018

Mussels Off Coast of Seattle Test Positive for Opioids, according to scientists at the Puget Sound Institute at the University of Washington Tacoma. The mussels were contaminated, they said, by oxycodone present in sewage that was treated at wastewater plants and pumped into the sound. Mussels are bottom feeders and filterers that often test positive for other drugs, but this is the first time they’re known to have been polluted with opioids. Huffington Post

Court Rules Montana Broke Law in Allowing Gold Drilling North of Yellowstone. The district court found that environmental regulators ignored environmental concerns and illegally approved Lucky Minerals Inc.’s plans to drill for gold in Emigrant Gulch, a narrow canyon near Chico Hot Springs. Opponents believe the drilling may lead to an industrial-scale mine that could harm the environment, water quality and the region’s tourism-based economy. The court directs the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to complete a more extensive environmental review Bozeman Daily Chronicle

California Governor Sets Permanent Water Restrictions . Although California declared an end to one of its longest-lasting droughts this past year, Governor Jerry Brown signed two new laws that would require cities, urban water districts, and large agricultural water districts to set strict annual water budgets – or risk fines. Three factors should go into the new standards: an allowance of 55 gallons per person per day for indoor water use; a set amount for residential outdoor use that will vary depending on regional climates; and a standard for water loss from leaky pipes. The Mercury News

Interior Department Plans to Auction 4,000 Acres of Northern Arizona Public Land for Oil Exploration. The decision follows the Trump administration's rollback of environmental protections for oil and gas leases on public lands. Local environmental organizations are prepared to challenge the plans in court, claiming that drilling and fracking the land, which straddles the Little Colorado River, could deplete and pollute groundwater. White Mountain Independent

Conservation and Human Rights Groups Link Up to Protest Border Wall. Organizations opposed to the proposed wall plan to gather on June 2 at the site of new border wall construction near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, west of El Paso, Texas. The groups cite concerns from militarization of border communities, to the threat to wildlife, endangered species, and public land. KRWG Las Cruces

May 21, 2018

Congress Could Prevent Closure of Navajo Coal Plant and Mine. The bill, drafted by Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican who serves on the Committee on Natural Resources, would address several problems facing the plant that is now up for sale. The legislation exempts the new owner of the plant from the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Air Act. Opponents, like Navajo representative Nicole Horseherder, say that it “should be called a tribal exploitation act,” because it would remove environmental safeguards for the Navajo people. Arizona Star

To Clean Up the Willamette River, Oregon Hopes to Remove Homeless Camps. The Department of State Lands proposed a measure that would ban people from camping alongside a stretch of public-owned beach along the river. The river is undergoing cleanup after years of industrial pollution, including several oil spills. However, these beaches have become increasingly popular for homeless people, whose tents and fires are blamed for destroying nearby vegetation. Oregonian

Six States Are Suing Washington State for Blocking Coal Port Expansion. Attorneys general from Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, and South Dakota filed a joint amicus brief against the Washington Department of Ecology. That office had denied the environmental permits necessary for the expansion of the Millennium Bulk Terminal based in Longview, saying it would cause “significant and unavoidable harm” to the environment. Attorney General Fox of Montana, the latest to join the lawsuit, says politicians are “hold[ing] coal states hostage.” Missoula Current

Local Resistance to Native Tribes’ Push to Change Two Names on Map of Yellowstone National Park A geologist and a soldier, one of whom is said to have advocated for the “extermination” of native people and the other of whom has been a war crimes in an Indian massacre, both are memorialized in the park, by Hayden Valley and Mount Diane. Tribal groups petitioned the U.S. Board of Geographic Names for a change; local county commissioners are pushing back. WyoFile

New Focus on Small Farmworker Communities’ Bad Drinking Water. California's Central Valley is home to 19 percent of food production in the world, but about 100,000 of its residents have lived without clean drinking water for decades, and a million may do so today. Two audio reports look at the reasons, the cost of solving the problem permanently by filtering toxins out of tap water, and the reli-ance to date on indifferent stop-gap solutions. KCET Podship Earth

Why Are Environmental Groups so White, and What Can Be Done About It? A 2014 report found that ethnic minorities do not exceed 16% of board members and or staff of environmental organizations. A similar 2018 report found that of 2,057 organizations that volunteer their data, 80 percent of board members and 85 percent of staff are white. While some institutions are trying to increase diversity, the statistics are slow to change. Environmentalists of color like Eddie Love and Queta González say organizations must commit to systemic change and changing their own internal cultures. Ensia

May 8, 2018

Study Finds Mega-Storms Will Become Increasingly Common for California. Extreme weather swings will occur more frequently as global warming raises sea levels and puts more water vapor in the air, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change. It suggests that the drought-to-flood weather patterns the state has experienced in recent years indicates a growing risk for more turbulent weather ahead. San Jose Mercury News

Hawaii May Ban Sunscreens Containing Chemicals That Hurt Marine Environment. After years of advocacy by local groups, Hawaiian lawmakers have passed a measure to ban the sale of sunscreens with the chemicals oxybenzone and octynoxate. The risk of these chemicals has often been overlooked, but they have been shown to wash off in the ocean and threaten local marine life and ecosystems, particularly coral reefs. Should Gov. David Ige sign the bill, Hawaii would become the first state banning such products to protect marine ecosystems. Washington Post

Oregon Health Department Says Air Near The Dalles Is Safe, Despite the Odor. For several years, residents living near the Amerities railroad tie plant in The Dalles have voiced concern over the stench apparently a result of the plant’s chemical activities. The plant uses a creosote mixture to treat the wooden ties, which emits several substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that, in high levels, are known to cause cancer and other health problems. While the air does not pose these risks, according to the report, it may still cause reactions in some people. KGW TV

NIMBYism and the Environment: Opponents of Housing Development for Homeless Cite Environmental Law to Shut Down Project. The Los Angeles development’s would-be neighbors, the Rosadas, have filed a lawsuit claiming that the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it approved an environmental report prepared for the city by consultants. The land to be developed apparently sits over an abandoned oil well, causing concerns over remaining contaminants in the soil. While experts conducted extensive studies on the land before the housing plan, the Rosadas insist the dangers to the environment still exist. Los Angeles Times

An Unusual Alliance: Washington Farm Groups Joins Cattle Association and EPA in an Environmental Suit. The Washington Farm Bureau succeeded in overcoming, for the moment, a state court decision that blocked them from intervening in an environmental organization’s lawsuit. The suit, by Northwest Environmental Advocates, alleges federal and state regulators aren’t protecting waterways from agriculture and required buffers to keep out runoff are inadequate. The Bureau has been concerned that an eventual decision might hurt agricultural interests, and wanted a seat at the table. Capital Press

April 20, 2018

Las Vegas by the Sea? Desert City Thinks About Desalination. With a new report predicting the Nevada city will outgrow its water supply within 20 years, Bronson Mack, a spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority said recently, "Certainly desalination might be part of Southern Nevada's water portfolio at some point in the future. He added, "it could be something that happens within the next 20 or 30 years." Water Deeply

Once Again, Water Is For Fighting Over: the Central Arizona Project Is Accused of Unfairly Manipulating its claims on the Colorado River. Four states from the Upper Basin have joined Denver's water utility to accuse the Arizona agency of seeking to avoid the kind of cutbacks that could be imposed on other river users, In the throes of an 18-year drought, with Lake Mead's levels projected to decline further, the states risk losing their decade-old spirit of cooperation. John Fleck/Inkstain Denver Post

Protecting Hawaii's Reefs Means Cutting Tropical Fish Collection. That's the impact of a ruling by federal judges in the 1st Circuit Court. The court voided all 131 outstanding aquarium permits issued by the state of Hawaii, blocking the harvest of a quarter-million fish annually. This ruling blocking recreational harvesting of tropical fish comes on the heels of a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling last fall, which held that all commercial aquarium collection permits in the state had been issued illegally. Hawaii's conservation groups.have been fighting to protect the reefs and marine wildlife. Wisconsin Gazette

If Mojave Desert Groundwater Is Sent to Cities, Can Bonanza Spring Survive? Yes, say studies by Cadiz Inc., the company selling the groundwater. No, says a new study, which links the spring — the biggest in the southeastern Mojave — to the same deep pool of groundwater from which Cadiz plans to pump 16 million gallons annually. Andy Zdon, a hydrogeologist, determined that Bonanza Spring seems to have a "hydraulic connection" to the deep aquifer Cadiz will use. "The spring is going to be highly susceptible to drawdown from the pumping," he said. "It would likely dry up." Desert Sun

Wyoming Area Set Aside for Species in a Collaborative Process Now May Be Leased. County commissioners in the southwestern section of the state object to the fact local Bureau of Land Management officials have been stripped of their ability to postpone leasing decisions, while examining environmental effects. They fear that the new policy, removing decision-making to the bureau's Washington, offices threatens the 522,236 acres of the Greater Little Mountain Area — and the work of a years-long collaborative effort — to optimize the area's management. Proposed leases would allow drilling along a 150-mile mule deer migration route. WyoFile

To Thrive, the Conservation Movement Needs Buy-In by People of Color. But this video report on the fraught history of the National Park Service and non-white visitors shows that if people of color need to learn more about the value of parks, parks need to know more about people of color. Grist

March 21, 2018

New Mexico's State Government, Allied With Landowners and Outfitters Against Fishermen, kayakers, canoeists, lets property owners certify the public streams crossing their land as private property. Those sections of public waters are then no longer a place where people can fish, paddle or float. A 2015 New Mexico law, made concrete last December, gives them license to do so. "Prohibiting access from the public is privatizing what has been historically ours, and the way this happened is chilling," said Robert Levin, the New Mexico director of the American Canoe Association. The Guardian

Is Relentless Decline of Ogallala Aquifer Inevitable? Maybe Not. Stretching from South Dakota to Texas, the aquifer has been, for decades, the subject of stories of overpumping, and dark indications that things are going too far. But some 60 Kansas farmers realized the continued pumping could mean their piece of the aquifer might effectively be tapped out before their heirs had a chance to work the family land. They agreed to cut water withdrawals by 20 percent per year through 2017. The self-restraint was a test of farming skills they thought they could pass. A pair of recent economic and hydrological assessments by Kansas State University and the Kansas Geological Survey showed pumping restrictions did not damage farm profitability, and they aided the aquifer. Circle of Blue

The Border Splits the Tohono O'Odham Tribe, and the Border Controls Attitudes split Tonhono O'ogham generations. The older generation is more willing to cooperate with the federal government, and with a track record of supporting and enhancing border security. Some of the younger, activist and idealist generation is eager to put tribal sovereignty above the needs of the federal government. They are aggressively opposed to the militarization of their reservation. And then, there are those in between, like Art Wilson, Tohono O'odham legislative councilman, who likes the security of the existing fence, but is upset to be separated from relatives in Mexico. . "It's complicated," he said. High Country News

The Reintroduction of Wolves to Yellowstone National Park Had Benefits Beyond those of revitalized wolf packs. "We're just uncovering these effects of large carnivores at the same time their populations are declining and are at risk," said William Ripple, an ecologist at Oregon State University. The Yellowstone reintroduction helped an entire ecosystem, studies show. In the places where they returned, wolves tidied up explosive deer and elk populations and helped bring back trees and shrubs. Birds and beavers, as well as the animals that live in dams, also returned. The New York Times

Sea Otters’ Comeback Success Hampered by Sharks. For decades, numbers of otters, protected by endangered species laws, have mostly increased, swelling to 3,200 individuals. But their range appears to be constrained. The otters can't seem to survive farther north than Santa Cruz or south of Santa Barbara. Their burgeoning numbers and restricted territory have led to overcrowding and, in some cases, starvation and death. Why can't they widen their territory? Studies indicate that sharks won't let them. Hakai Magazine

March 8, 2018

There Are Whispers of Another Wyoming Oil and Gas Boom in Converse County, an area which has experienced a downturn in the markets for all its extractable resources – coal, uranium, oil, and gas. But the hints of a boom are a reminder of the impacts of the bust, particularly on the schools. As one teacher said: "You see the effect that it has on the kids. The socioeconomic effect. … You had this in the classroom," when students' parents had been laid off. "They'd say: "Why did my parent lose their job?" From a community standpoint, county officials said, gradual growth is far better. Via the Casper Star-Tribune's Energy Journal podcast. Casper Star-Tribune

A Montana Entrepreneur Wants to Turn a High Butte Into a Battery that could even out the inevitable peaks and valleys in solar- and wind-powered electricity. The intermittent nature of electricity generated by renewables makes it hard to build a grid on their power, unless an additional power source can ensure constant power. Using the established method of pumping water uphill in times of high energy supply and letting it run down through turbines to make up for low energy supply, the planned battery-in-a-butte has received most of the permits it needs to be built near Martinsdale, an area where six wind turbines already provide power. Seattle Times

A Plan for Cleaning Up Utah Lake Would Let Developers Create Islands With Subdivisions, The West's third-largest freshwater body is overloaded with nutrients left by years of sewage disposal; there is also heavy phosphorus contaminations. Cleanup costs are estimated at between $7 billion and $9 billion. The state legislature is considering the project. Salt Lake Tribune

A New App Allows Water Quality Monitoring by Arizona Hikers and birders and others enjoying the outdoors. Using cellphones or tablets, they can input observations about everything from wildlife to visible pollution and water flow. The information goes to the state department of water quality. The app, developed by Arizona Water Watch, a program that also trains citizen scientists to collect water samples, has a geolocation feature. Cronkite News

The Venture Capitalist Vinod Khosla, Trying to Cut Off Access to Martin's Beach, heads to the California Supreme Court. The beach, a coastal nook a little south of San Francisco, can only be reached though a private road on the 53 acres of Khosla's shoreline property. After he bought the land, he locked the gate to the beach. He is now fighting against what he calls "Orwellian" laws governing the coast, particularly those giving power to the California Coastal Commission. The lawyer opposing Khosla said, ""The only way they can find for Vinod is to throw out the entire California coastal program." The Guardian

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Recent Center News

Aug 16 2018 | Out West student blog
The Trust for Public Land and intern Victoria Mendez worked with an artist to build an ice cream cart fitted with sensors that would instead “provide real-time information on local air quality in a culturally attractive, engaging way.”
Aug 15 2018 | Out West student blog
At the National Conference of State Legislatures, “seeing that my internship work has real world applications has brought me so much joy,” says Hannah Zimmerman.
Aug 14 2018 | Out West student blog
“Pumped storage,” Barrett Travis writes from the California Department of Water Resources, “may be an essential part of helping California and the rest of the country transition fully to solar power and other intermittent but clean sources of energy.”