The Living Museum Within Bears Ears National Monument

  • May 15, 2017 12:55

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Indian Creek and Cliffside, Bears Ears National Monument
US Bureau of Land Management

Southeast Utah's Bears Ears National Monument has been called the "Sistine Chapel" of the West for its ancient wall etchings, notes the New York Times. Some 100,000 archaeological sites comprise this 1.3-million acre landscape known for its cultural significance as a living museum, its recreational appeal, and the sublime beauty of its red rock scenery punctuated by a pair of 8,700-foot buttes, dubbed Bears Ears.

Now, the debate over whether to keep the public land and conservation area of Bears Ears, and over two dozen of other sites, mostly in the West, has keyed up since President Trump declared National Monument status as under review. The status gives federal protection to wild and prehistoric/historic places while maintaining some "pre-existing rights" to the land.

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In April, Trump signed an executive order that reconsiders 27 monuments comprising over 100,000 acres each, designated during the past 21 years, from Bears Ears to Maine's Katahdin Woods to the fragile Giant Sequoias in California. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is charged with reviewing the national monument status of these sites, and whether their designation should be abolished or their size reduced.

President Obama made Bears Ears into a national monument just before his term ended by using the Antiquities Act, the law that President Teddy Roosevelt enacted in 1906 for presidents to protect important lands for the public and for future generations. No president has ever rescinded a national monument status.

House on Fire Ruin, in upper Mule Canyon near Comb Ridge, Bears Ears.
Wikipedia

Some 10,000 years of human history resides at Bears Ears, a place that local native peoples--Puebloan descendants--deem significant historically, culturally, spiritually, and for current usage. There is the remarkable pictograph known as the 11th-12th century Wolfman Panel and a River House ruin from the 11-12th centuries on the San Juan River, for example.

The Bears Ears archeaological sites "...helps us learn our own history, it reminds us of who we are as modern day people, it gives us a foundation to carry into the future so that we don't feel lost, we don't feel like we don't have purpose," explains a local archaeologist in a Patagonia video.

Retailer Patagonia is a vocal opponent of the Bears Ears threat. View Patagonia's Google Street View tour of Bears Ears with its commentary, pictograph explanations, and 360-degree views.

Call 1-202-601-3839 to contact Secretary Zinke and the Deparment of Interior in support of Bears Ears and other National Monuments or make comments on the federal website, write here. The public input window for Bears Ears is currently set to end on May 26 while others are under review until June 10.


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