Utah’s Bears Ears Cultural Landscape Named to National Trust’s 2016 11 Most Endangered Historic Places List
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The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named the Bears Ears region of Southeastern Utah to its 2016 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. This annual list spotlights important examples of the nation’s architectural and cultural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. More than 270 sites have been on the list over its 29-year history, and in that time, only a handful of listed sites have been lost.
The Bears Ears region, named for a pair of buttes in San Juan County, Utah, is one of the most significant cultural landscapes in the United States. Its 1.9 million acres feature more than 100,000 cultural and archaeological sites associated with the Pueblo, Navajo, Ute, and Zuni Tribes including Ice Age hunting camps, cliff dwellings, prehistoric villages, petroglyphs and pictographs.
Despite its vast cultural significance, inadequate legal protections and insufficient funding have allowed this landscape to suffer degradation and destruction from looting, mismanaged recreational use, and energy development. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages much of the area, does not currently have the resources to protect it adequately; the BLM has just two archaeologists and two rangers for its entire two million-acre district in San Juan County, Utah.
BLM’s ability to protect the area’s archeological resources is complicated by its multiple-use mandate, which requires the agency to balance mineral extraction, energy development, off-road vehicle use, and grazing alongside preservation and conservation.
“The Bears Ears region provides a tangible link to the diverse stories of 12,000 years of human history,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The National Trust joins Native American tribes, conservation groups, and public officials in supporting the creation of a Bears Ears National Monument by the president before the end of this year.”Members of the public are invited to learn more about what they can do to support these 11 historic places and hundreds of other endangered sites at SavingPlaces.org/11Most
The 2016 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places (in alphabetical order):
- Austin’s Lions Municipal Golf Course – Austin, Texas. Widely regarded as the first municipal golf course in the South to desegregate, “Muny” is an unheralded civil rights landmark facing development pressure.
- Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall at Lincoln University – Lincoln, Pa. The oldest building on the campus of the first degree-granting institution in the nation for African Americans, this hallowed building currently stands empty and faces an uncertain future.
- Bears Ears – Southeastern Utah. The 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears cultural landscape features a world-class collection of archaeological sites, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and ancient roads that illuminate 12,000 years of human history yet is now threatened by looting, mismanaged recreational use, and energy development.
- Charleston Naval Hospital District – North Charleston, S.C. The historic district played a prominent role during WWII as a primary re-entry point for American servicemen injured in Europe and Africa. Now threatened by a proposed rail line, this important historic resource is at risk of being largely destroyed.
- Delta Queen – Houma, La. This steamboat was built in 1926 and today is among the last of her kind. Federal legislation that would enable this prestigious ship to return to overnight passenger cruising remains a key piece to securing the Delta Queen’s sustainability and future.
- El Paso’s Chihuahuita and El Segundo Barrio Neighborhoods – El Paso, Texas. These historic neighborhoods form the core of El Paso’s cultural identity, but their homes and small businesses are threatened by demolition.
- Historic Downtown Flemington – Flemington, N.J. Historic buildings at the core of the town that hosted the ‘Trial of the Century,’ the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial, are threatened by a development proposal that would demolish the iconic Union Hotel along with three other adjacent historic buildings.
- James River - James City County, Va.Jamestown, America’s first permanent English settlement, was founded along the banks of the James River in 1607. The river and landscape, also named to this list by the Trust in 2013, remain threatened by a proposed transmission line project that would compromise the scenic integrity of this historic area.
- Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes - Milwaukee, Wis. A beloved Milwaukee institution for generations, a unique engineering marvel and a highly significant example of midcentury modern architecture, the Milwaukee Domes are facing calls for their demolition.
- San Francisco Embarcadero – San Francisco, Calif. The City by the Bay's iconic waterfront is beloved by residents and visitors alike, but needs long-term planning to address the dual natural threats of sea level rise and seismic vulnerability.
- Sunshine Mile – Tucson, Ariz. This two-mile corridor on Tucson’s Broadway Boulevard features one of the most significant concentrations of historic mid-century modern architecture in the Southwest. This unique collection of properties face threats from a transportation project that would require demolition.
America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places has identified more than 270 threatened one-of-a-kind historic treasures since 1988. Whether these sites are urban districts or rural landscapes, Native American landmarks or 20th-century sports arenas, entire communities or single buildings, the list spotlights historic places across America that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy. The designation has been a powerful tool for raising awareness and rallying resources to save endangered sites from every region of the country. At times, that attention has garnered public support to quickly rescue a treasured landmark; while in other instances, it has been the impetus of a long battle to save an important piece of our history.