In 1986 I was in my 3rd year of college, attending the University of California at Santa Cruz. My major was Environmental Studies, and I was very much enjoying my time there. But then one day I saw a notice about a UC Extension program called the Sierra Institute, that was offering a program of environmental study while backpacking through the desert of Southern Utah. It ended up being an amazing, transformative experience and from that year on I was forever enamored with that area. I have returned many times since, both as a traveler and a tour leader and the area never disappoints. Canyonlands, Bryce and Zion National Parks are all awesome popular places but we also spent 2 weeks hiking in the Grand Staircase-Escalante area, which in 1986 was all BLM land and thus open for mining and agricultural use. Back then along the Escalante River Bottom, I remember seeing a lot of cow tracks and manure all through those canyons. In 1996 it became the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, providing protection and safety of that stunning and fragile ecosystem.
So I was thrilled when in 2016, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to create Bears Ears National Monument, another amazing area of southern Utah. The creation of this monument protected many spectacular places like Cedar Mesa, White Canyon, Bears Ears, and also withdrew Lockhart Basin, which is adjacent to Canyonlands National Park, from future energy leasing. The proposal was led by five Tribes-the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, and Ute Indian Tribes. It would be the first time in history that these Tribes would now have a say in the management of these culturally important lands, as there are nearly 100,000 archaeological and cultural sites that were protected by the designation.
Unfortunately, in 2017 President Trump dismantled both Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Grand Staircase-Escalante was slashed in half, replacing it with three much smaller units. Bears Ears was shrunk by 83% and replaced with two much smaller non-contiguous units totaling less than 230,000 acres. Trump ignored millions of public comments opposing the repeal, and left rare archaeological sites and amazing wild lands unprotected from oil and gas drilling, uranium mining, coal mining, new road construction, looting, and prospecting.
The Tribes, along with the National Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups have both sued President Trump in separate lawsuits, charging he violated the 1906 Antiquities Act and the U.S. Constitution in his repeal of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The suits challenge that he has neither the constitutional nor statutory authority to dismantle National Monuments created under the Antiquities Act.
The cases are pending, and there is real risk of harm to these lands. See the update below.
I already donate $10 a month to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) but I wanted to help out more, since this issue and this area are so important to me.
So I am making a series of these handmade beaded necklaces, all featuring bear fetishes, handmade sterling silver charms, glass seed beads, precious and semi-precious stones and other goodies. For every necklace sold I will donate $5 to the NRDC to help them in their efforts to save Bears Ears National Monument. If you would like to donate directly to this organization who is fighting to save these lands, go here.
The necklaces are in the shop now, thank you so much for your help!
UPDATE: Since I have written this blog post, the Trump Interior Department (now headed by former oil and gas lobbyist David Bernhardt) stacked the 15-member Bears Ear Advisory Committee with people who fought President Obama’s original designation of the monument, with only 2 of the 15 members of the committee to represent Native American tribal interests. The Interior Department chose the only white county commissioner from San Juan County, leaving the two Navajo commissioners out. It also chose white ranchers, a white county administrator and a white political activist. And the person chosen to represent conservation interests is a white hunting lobbyist from northern Utah.
The entire existence of Bears Ears, created from a rare alliance of five sovereign American Indian nations, came from the tribes’ desire of recognition of a common ancestral homeland. The fact that they are being almost completely left out of this fight is a sham and a travesty. Here is the article I sourced for this information, it is worth your time to read…