President Obama Should Act to Protect Bears Ears
Statement by Stephanie K. Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a field hearing today to examine the Utah Public Lands Initiative and the potential impacts of large-scale monument designations, including the cultural landscape known as Bears Ears. The following is a statement from Stephanie K. Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation:
“We join the broad-based request that the president utilize his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect the nationally significant cultural and archaeological resources of Bears Ears this year. In addition, the National Trust opposes H.R. 5781, which would limit the president’s authority to proclaim national monuments in certain areas of Utah.
“Continued reports of looting, vandalism, and other damaging disturbances of archaeological sites lends particular urgency to the permanent protection of the Bears Ears landscape as soon as possible. Given the time sensitive and significant threat to priceless cultural resources and the absence of a realistic opportunity to enact bipartisan legislation during this Congress, the National Trust supports the protection of the Bears Ears landscape by the president as a National Monument before the end of this year.”
BACKGROUND ON BEARS EARS
Bears Ears is one of the most significant cultural landscapes in the United States and a landscape that is home to more than 100,000 cultural and archaeological sites, many of which are sacred to tribal communities across the region. The 1.9 million acres of public lands south and east of Canyonlands National Park include Ice Age hunting camps, cliff dwellings, prehistoric villages, and petroglyph and pictograph panels that tell the diverse stories of 12,000 years of human habitation.
Since 2007, the National Trust has been working on legislative proposals with the Utah delegation and other stakeholders to protect this important place. We have also been actively engaged in cultural resource protection issues in Southeast Utah – working to ensure compliance with federal laws designed to avoid impacts to historic and cultural properties and supporting thoughtful planning for and interpretation of cultural resources.
In 2013, we developed and presented maps and narratives describing the National Trust’s priorities for resource designations in Southeast Utah to local, state, and national partners, including the offices of Congressmen Bishop and Chaffetz. Since we named this area one of our National Treasures in 2013, we have committed our expertise and resources to seeking a preservation-friendly solution to land use conflicts in this area. Earlier this year, reflecting our long-standing commitment to the legislative process, we submitted extensive comments on the “Discussion Draft” of the PLI.