With his signature, President Obama can use his executive powers under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to proclaim the area a national monument—a designation permanently preserving it that legal scholars say would be almost impossible for a Trump administration to reverse.
Tribes with ancestral ties to Bears Ears would undoubtedly celebrate: Not only would it be by far the largest swath of ancestral Native American real estate set aside for permanent protection, but it would give tribes direct management authority over federally protected lands.
The proposal stipulates that, in a historical first, Native Americans would serve on a joint commission alongside representatives from the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
“There’s lots of evidence that when people care about a place, they want it protected,” Wilder tells me.
His users, devoted to outdoor recreation, have garnered support for conservation efforts in areas with popular rock-climbing and mountain-biking routes.
The opposition—voiced primarily by the three-member San Juan County Commission—insists that the monument is overkill.
Currently, the Forest Service and the BLM oversee almost all the land within the proposed monument, and the agencies are managing it just fine, argue monument detractors, suitably balancing preservation and recreational demands with the need to generate jobs in Utah’s poorest county, where the median income is just 61 percent the national figure, and the unemployment rate is 7 percent.My shoes are soaked and full of grit, and I should probably turn back.Instead, I clamber onto a smooth, flat-topped boulder 10 feet above the canyon floor to have a look around.In July 2015 the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni tribes—all of whom trace their ancestry to the Puebloans—partnered to form the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.Three months later they submitted a 40-page proposal to President Barack Obama, asking him to establish the Bears Ears National Monument.Rangers have even discovered bullet holes in 1,800-year-old rock art.