Spinning yarns about Bears Ears

 

Nathan Nielson’s opinion piece (“Leviathan in the desert,HCN, 10/31/16) is made from whole cloth. The yarns Nielson spins are of “federal absorption”; vandalism run amok; neglect and economic crisis; future limitations placed on the gathering of wood, herbs and piñon nuts; a lack of support for a Bears Ears National Monument; and a coming massive restriction of livestock grazing as at the nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. 

They are all myths. National monuments can be designated only on federal lands already owned by all Americans — the federal government is not “absorbing” any land. Nielson falsely reports all 1,400 cases of visitor contact with law enforcement in 2015 at Grand Staircase-Escalante as cases of “rock defacement” with no factual basis. Far from a crisis, economies have grown around Grand Staircase, and business and tax receipts are on the rise. The Escalante Chamber of Commerce, on its website, touts all the tourist accommodations and recreational opportunities and brags in gold letters on the masthead: “HEART OF THE GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE MONUMENT.”

Nielson states, too, that roads cannot be graded, vegetation cannot be maintained, and springs cannot be cleaned in national monuments, but these activities occur regularly at our national monuments. Wood will be gathered, herbs collected, and ceremonies performed at Bears Ears, all protected in the monument proclamation as they have been in all recent monuments designated by President Obama. Some 220,000 people have signed petitions in support of a Bears Ears National Monument; the Salt Lake Tribune, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other papers have editorialized for it; and its protection holds the support of more than 300 sovereign Native American Tribes.

The author laments a 31 percent reduction in grazing at Grand Staircase — a nonexistent “fact.” The Bureau of Land Management says that permitted animal unit months (one AUM is one cow/calf pair or five sheep for one month) were 77,200 when the Grand Staircase was designated. 76,900 are available today, even after thousands of AUMs were willingly sold by ranchers. This means livestock grazing has actually increased in eligible parts of the monument, despite a decade of crippling drought.

Nielson is wildly misleading in his faith in Utah Congressman Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI). It absolutely will not pass in the few legislative days remaining in the 114th Congress. He flagrantly mischaracterizes it. Nielson writes that PLI is “a locally driven process designed to balance the interests of ranchers, energy developers, environmentalists, hikers and tribes.”  But documented history shows that the last three groups were denied seats at the table in crafting the PLI. The legislative effort was dominated by the mineral interests and ranchers. Bears Ears would be ruined forever if the extraction-heavy PLI were to pass.

The true promise of Bears Ears National Monument lies in protecting forever this wondrous red-rock landscape. It is coupled with the profound gift offered by the five tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni; their vision and participation will ensure that Native American traditional knowledge is shared, and that Indigenous people reclaim their rightful authority to help manage their ancestral lands. Bears Ears, which will become one of the most compelling and distinctive of our monuments or parks, has inestimable worth. Protect it now, or it will be a main target of the Trump administration. 

Charles Wilkinson
Moses Lasky Professor of Law, University of Colorado

Boulder, Colorado

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Seeking passionate full-time Executive to lead the oldest non-profit organization in Idaho. Must have knowledge of environmental issues, excellent organizational, verbal presentation and written skills,...
  • COLORADO PROGRAM MANAGER
    The National Parks Conservation Association, the leading non-profit conservation organization protecting Americas national parks, seeks a Program Manager for its Colorado Field Office located in...
  • CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Carbondale based public lands advocate, Wilderness Workshop, seeks a Conservation Director to help direct and shape the future of public land conservation on the West...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR WATER PLANNING WITH WRA'S HEALTHY RIVERS PROGRAM
    Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED BIGHORN RIVER BASIN PROJECT MANAGER
    The Bighorn River Basin Project Manager identifies and implements projects to improve streamflows, restore stream and riparian habitat, improve fish passage and rehabilitate or replace...
  • NON-PROFIT OPERATIONS MANAGER
    One of the most renowned community-based collaboratives in the country seeks full-time Operations Manager to oversee administrative, financial, fund development, and board development duties. BS/BA...
  • RUSTIC HORSE PROPERTY
    in NM. 23 acres, off the grid, rustic cabin, organic gardens, fruit trees, fenced, call 505-204-8432 evenings.
  • DIRECTOR OF VISITOR SERVICES & BOOKSTORE OPERATIONS
    The San Juan Mountains Association in Durango, CO is seeking a Director of Visitor Services & Bookstore Operations to lead our visitor information program &...
  • SOLAR POWERED HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK
    1800 sf home on 4.12 acres surrounded by Natl Forest and recreational opportunities in a beautiful area (Happy Valley) between Torrey and Boulder. [email protected], www.bouldermoutainreality/properties/grover/off-the-grid-in-happy-valley,...
  • 40 ACRE ORGANIC FARM
    potential fruit/hay with house, Hotchkiss, CO, Scott Ellis, 970-420-0472, [email protected]
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 25-year legacy of success...
  • LAND CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Manage, develop and implement all stewardship and land management plans and activities on both private and public lands. Guide and direct comprehensive planning efforts, provide...
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one. 928-380-6570, www.testshop.com. More info at https://bit.ly/2Kgi340.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • FORGE & FAB SHOP
    with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...
  • SMALL FARM AT THE BASE OF MOUNT SHASTA
    Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Home, barns, garage, separate apt, more. Just under 2 ac, edge of town. Famously pure air and water. Skiing, mountaineering, bike,...
  • FOREST STEWARDSHIP PROJECT DIRECTOR
    Become a force for nature and a healthy planet by joining the Arizona Chapter as Forest Stewardship Project Director. You will play a key role...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT FLY ROD CASES
    4 standard or custom lengths. Rugged protection for backpacking. Affordable pricing.
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details: