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Why Does Bears Ears Matter to Utah?

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

by Staff, Spaulding Law

There is a lot of attention on Utah right now regarding Bears Ears National Monument. The Outdoor Retailer show, that has long been hosted by Utah, has decided to look for a new location at the end of their contract due to Utah’s opposition to the Monument. President Barack Obama exercised the power granted him through the Antiquities Act of 1906, declaring the 1.35 million acres of land called Bears Ears a national monument a few weeks before the end of his term. Utah representatives had proposed a public lands initiative and met with President Obama prior to the order hoping to dissuade him.

A 2013 report showed that 64.9% of Utah land is federally owned leaving only Nevada with more federally owned land. The top 12 states where the federal government owns the most land are all in the West. Most of them lost their land as a result of treaties, land settlement laws and patterns, and laws that required them to surrender the land in order to be admitted to the Union. Portions of Utah’s land are currently claimed by the following departments: Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Defense, National Forest, National Historic Site, National Monument, National Park, National Wildlife Refuge, Public Domain, Recreation Area, and Wilderness.

The ownership of this land and its resources has an impact on the Utah economy. San Juan County, where Bears Ears is located, is a very rural area. Limiting the use of the land takes away from the potential tax base (such as new mining or energy development) that is used to provide funding for the public schools in the area. It also affects ranchers who have grazed their cattle in that area for generations. Many of these ranchers state that their current profit margins are so slim that additional regulation may make it impossible for them to remain in business.

There is a coalition, The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, of Native Americans from the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe that have lobbied for and support the National Monument. The land is a place where tribal leaders and medicine people go to conduct ceremonies, collect herbs, and practice healing rituals. They feel that their traditional medicine is in peril if places such as Bears Ears are not protected. This coalition has proposed that the most appropriate management strategy for this land and its resources would be collaborative management by the tribes and federal agencies.

This information is made available by Spaulding Law for educational purposes only and not to provide legal advice. By using this website, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Spaulding Law, unless you have entered into a separate representation agreement. This information should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.

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