Q: Isn’t a national monument just another land grab by the federal government?
A: No. A national monument designation does not expand government land holdings in any way. Private lands are not included in or affected by the proposed monument. Most of the lands in the proposed monument are already public lands held in trust for the American people and managed by the federal government (a small portion are state lands, which will be exchanged for federal lands out of the area).
Q: Will I be able to cut firewood, gather herbs, hunt, fish, or gather piñon nuts?
A: Yes. One of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition’s primary goals in protecting Bears Ears is to ensure continued access for all—including hunting, fishing, gathering firewood and herb collection. Six national monuments designated recently by the Obama administration, including Rio Grande Del Norte in New Mexico and Mojave Trails in California, are governed by proclamations protecting access—and Native American and other traditional uses.
Q: Won’t making Bears Ears a national monument bring in even more people and cause additional resource damage, looting, and diminish the recreational experience?
A: While in most cases monument status creates more awareness, the Bears Ears region is already quite popular. Monument status would bring more resources to better manage increased visitation.
Q: Won’t making Bears Ears a national monument lead to entrance fees, more development, paved roads, and loss of the primitive experience I can have there today?
A: The vision for a Bears Ears National Monument keeps the area largely as it is today— primitive and remote and free of admission fees. Similar to many other recent monument designations, Bears Ears NM will be managed cooperatively by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service. There are many stories to be told at Bears Ears, from Native American history to modern LDS pioneer history. Monument designation will provide new resources to tell those stories and bring about healing for the land, plants, animals, and people.
Q: Aren’t the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service already doing a good job of managing and protecting the region?
A: There is only so much the BLM and Forest Service can currently do with their limited resources. For example, there is currently only one full-time law enforcement officer dedicated to patrolling the nearly two million acres of Bears Ears. A monument has a better chance of securing funding for additional visitor education and interpretation, and staff and law enforcement personnel to more closely monitor and protect the region’s resources.
Q: Why not turn the land back over to the original Native American inhabitants?
A: Bears Ears is composed of public lands owned equally by all Americans, and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition has proposed that they remain so. What makes the Bears Ears proposal unique is that the lands would be collaboratively co-managed by an inter-tribal coalition and the federal government. This would be the first such cooperative monument management approach and an important part of why Great Old Broads for Wilderness supports this designation. In fact, 26 southwestern Tribes and the 250+ Tribes of the National Congress of American Indians passed resolutions endorsing protection under this groundbreaking collaborative approach.
Q: I heard that in Escalante the monument designation hurt nearby education. Will we lose our schools?
A: Not as a result of monument designation. The viability of schools is based on student enrollment, which has dropped in many rural areas, but is actually on the increase in Bluff, Utah. No schools have closed in Escalante, one of the gateway communities of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Recently, the School Superintendent told the Salt Lake City Tribune there are no plans to close or combine schools in Escalante despite enrollment decline.
Q: Will designating Bears Ears a national monument lead to an economic collapse of the local communities?
A: Again, if we look at Escalante as an example, a 2014 Headwaters Economics study found that the communities adjacent to GSENM experienced strong growth after the designation in 1996. That growth is in local health care and the tourism sector, which includes accommodations, food, arts, entertainment, and recreation. Overall wages for the region have climbed from $40.7 million to $61 million since 2001, and four key economic indicators—population, employment, personal income, and per capita income—all rose since the monument designation.
Q: Wouldn’t these lands be better managed if they were owned by the state of Utah?
A: Bears Ears consists of federal public lands and Americans have a say in how they are managed and used. Public lands can only be disposed to the state or a county by an Act of Congress—and that’s not a part of the vision for Bears Ears. Everyone will have a chance to provide input in how Bears Ears is cared for during the development of the Monument Management Plan, including recreationists, land users, and the State of Utah and County governments.
Q: Why not protect these lands under the Public Lands Initiative (PLI) proposed by Rep. Rob Bishop (UT)?
A: Pitting the PLI against a new national monument is a false choice. Congressman Bishop has introduced a bill that cannot pass Congress and will not be signed by the President. PLI contains many poison pills that make it a dead end, including not protecting more than half a million acres of Bears Ears, reducing Native American input on management to a small voice in the crowd, and handing over permitting of energy development to the State of Utah.
Q: I think a national monument is a good idea. What can I do to help?
A: For more information, to learn more about the Bears Ears proposal at: www.bearsearscoalition.org, and sign the petition in support of the tribes at: http://www.bearsearscoalition.org/action/. You can also help by writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper in support of Bears Ears and share and spread the word on social media.