Bears Ears, Utah

photo by: Lusha Evans

Antiquities Act

Bears Ears National Monument

  • Location: Colorado Plateau, Utah
The Bears Ears Cultural Landscape in Southeast Utah includes archaeological sites, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and ancient roads that tell stories of diverse people over the course of 12,000 years. On December 28, 2016, President Barack Obama named Bears Ears a national monument and protected 1.35 million acres of land for one of the most significant cultural landscapes in our history.

Strong Ties to Living Memory

President Obama was driven to action in large part due to the work of the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition, made up of the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni Nations, all of whom have sacred ties to the region. With looting, grave robbing, vandalism, and cultural site destruction posing a serious threat to Bears Ears, the tribes came together to explain how vital it was to protect the area from harm.

Not only does the cultural landscape—totaling 1.9 million acres—represent each nation’s history and their eventual forced relocation from the area, but Native Americans also return to the twin buttes to connect with their ancestors. The Navajo Nation and the White Mesa Ute Reservation border Bears Ears, and both the Navajo and Ute people frequently collect herbs and medicine, forage for food, gather firewood for heating or ceremonial use, and hunt game in the area.

Bears Ears represents other notable archeological features, too. In 1879, Mormon pioneers trekked across the Colorado Plateau on what would become known as the Hole in the Rock Trail, now listed on the National Register. The area is also near one National Historic Landmark—Alkali Ridge—and hundreds of sites that have been determined eligible for listing on the National Register.

The stunning and significant landscape is unusually intact, with many of its archaeological sites remaining as they have for hundreds of years. Its preservation, combined with the remarkable stories it tells of migration, settlement, and adaptation, continues to draw visitors from around the world.

Detail of petroglyphs.

photo by: Mason Cummings

Detail of petroglyphs.

The Road to Monument Designation

The National Trust added Bears Ears to its National Treasures program in 2014, partnering with the All Pueblo Council of Governors, Friends of Cedar Mesa, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, the Conservation Lands Foundation, and others. In 2016, the site landed on the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in America list, garnering national attention.

National Trust President Stephanie K. Meeks submitted testimony to the United States House Committee on Natural Resources in September 2016, supporting national monument status for Bears Ears. And in November that same year, the National Trust’s letter to President Obama urging him to proceed with federal designation was signed by 17 other preservation, conservation, and archaeology organizations.

The Fight Begins Again

Unfortunately, Bears Ears is once again under threat. After years of collaboration between the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition and other conservation groups leading to Bears Ears’ national monument designation in 2016, the current administration is considering redrawing Bears Ears’ borders to remove much of its cultural landscape or even rescind its monument designation altogether.

We at the National Trust and our partners cannot allow this critical piece of our nation’s history and culture to fall to ruin. Show your support today for Bears Ears and other national monuments protected under the Antiquities Act.

As part of the Trump Administration’s review of national monuments created since 1996, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is seeking public input on 22 National Monuments. Join us in speaking up for the lands that define us as a people and that will inspire us and enrich our lives for generations to come.

Tell Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke that we must protect this irreplaceable treasure.

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