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Why Oppose the Bears Ears National Monument?

Joe Lyman
Nov 15 2016

Tim Peterson

By Joe Lyman


Joe Lyman is a member of the Blanding, Utah town council, and the great-grandson of one of settlers who came in 1879.

Massive tracts of land being declared National Monuments violates the very Antiquities Act used to enact them as they are to be “confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” What object is being protected that requires a landmass larger than Delaware to protect it? The Act was never intended as a land management tool. It subverts the Congressional process that has been ongoing for years and tramples State sovereignty.

I am the owner of Cedar Mesa Pottery and a lifelong resident of Blanding with roots back three generations. My great-grandfather Walter C. Lyman was a member of the Hole in the Rock expedition. I am currently serving my third four-year term on the City Council. I believe government closer to the people is always preferable to government from a distance and that government is best which governs least.

In July 2016, the Department of the Interior and the USDA held an event at the bluffs to air competing viewpoints. Attendees were issued t-shirts to represent their positions: brown, against monument designation, and blue, in favor.

Tim Peterson

Property rights exist in the area which do not meet the definition of being “lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States” including 43 grazing allotments, 661 water-rights, 151,000 acres of State Trust land, 18,000 acres of private property and hundreds of miles of roads and infrastructure.

The protections sought by monument proponents are already in place and there is abundant evidence that a monument designation will increase the threat to archaeology in the area. The National Park Service has at least a two-year backlog in maintenance already and is not able to do more. Outdoor recreation will be curtailed, not enhanced.

The Bears Ears area has special significance to the local chapter of the Navajo Nation (Dineh). It was home to Chief Manuelito. The local Dineh overwhelmingly oppose the monument in contrast to the Navajo and other tribal leaders from distant places who know little or nothing of the area. Recently Ute Tribal leaders in Utah and Colorado who supported the monument were voted out of office; the victors have not yet made clear how they feel about it.

Many of the Anglo population have roots in the Hole in the Rock expedition that settled families in the area in the late 1800s, the last years of Chief Manuelito. The expedition was saved in part when advanced scouts climbed Salvation Knoll, the southernmost tip of Elk Mountain just below the Bears Ears to get their bearings. They established towns and developed water resources, built schools, farmed and ranched, mined and cut timber to survive.

For generations, the local people have used and cared for this land. We are the reason it is still in the relatively pristine condition that others deem worthy of protection. Mismanagement by a distant bankrupt bureaucracy with little understanding of the land and how to use and preserve it will cause irreparable damage to the fabric of the local communities.

The historical traditions of Navajo, Ute, Hispanic and Anglos alike include cattle grazing, wood and herb gathering and hunting among other activities. Mineral extraction and timber harvesting created jobs and the tax base to support our schools and build the roads used to access the area for these uses as well as for recreation. Continued multiple use of the land is vital to our way of life and our economic survival. An increase in seasonal tourism is no replacement for a diverse and healthy economy.

For generations, the local people have used and cared for this land. We are the reason it is still in the relatively pristine condition that others deem worthy of protection. Mismanagement by a distant bankrupt bureaucracy with little understanding of the land and how to use and preserve it will cause irreparable damage to the fabric of the local communities. Blanding and Monticello city councils have both passed resolutions opposing the monument.

We have been told by proponents of the monument that our reliance on the land doesn’t matter or that it is a lie. We have been told we have no right to live here and that we should move. Most proponents of the monument are not so calloused and cold on the surface but the results of a monument designation are the same regardless of their intentions.

To others this is a vacation spot, a temporary get-away, a playground and we welcome your visit. To us it is part of our way of life and the source of our livelihood and the backbone of our culture and traditions. It is our Home. Read more at: http://www.savebearsears.com

The 1.9 million acre Bears Ears National Monument proposed for federal lands in southeastern Utah. View a detailed map of the proposed area.


 

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

Reading
No

Joe Lyman
Blanding town council member and third generation resident

 

 

Reader Comments

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

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

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

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