Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Gov. Gary Herbert speaks at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. He speaks in the wake of President Donald Trump who came to Utah’s capital to announce changes to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
The extraordinarily vast and beautiful area of southeastern Utah known to many as the Bears Ears region deserves protection for the benefit of all Americans for generations to come and for the special benefit of those Native Americans with rich ancestral ties to this land. In order to conserve these geologically, culturally and archaeologically rich lands, federal, state, tribal and local officials need to convene and craft legislation for a diverse array of special protections and responsible recreational uses. President Donald Trump’s announcement Monday reopens the door for exactly the kind of sustainable management that the Bears Ears region needs.
By executive order, Trump has reduced the Bears Ears National Monument (BENM) that President Barack Obama designated less than one year ago. That original designation created a supersize monument of about 1.35 million acres of federal land, which, when one accounts for all state and private inholdings, actually approaches 1.5 million acres. The entire state of Delaware is a little over 1.59 million acres. Both the creation and the reduction of this monument have come with controversy — controversy that has often been fueled by several false narratives.
Regardless of your heartfelt feelings about what Bears Ears National Monument represents, let’s sift the facts from the fiction.
Myth: By reducing the size of BENM, these federal lands will be transferred to the state of Utah and/or private entities.
Fact: BENM was designated on federal lands that will remain under federal ownership regardless of monument status. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has adamantly opposed the wholesale transfer or privatization of federal public lands, and that commitment is reflected in this modification of monument boundaries.
Myth: Without national monument status, the vast landscape of the Bears Ears region will be subjected to unchecked exploitation.