By Erick Valencia
On December 28, 2016, President Obama issued a proclamation creating the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument southwest of Moab in San Juan County, Utah. The order, noting the breathtaking desert landscape, the area’s archeological significance, and its importance to numerous Native American Tribes, is a step toward tribal sovereignty. Indeed, the order creates a Bears Ears Commission consisting of one elected officer from each of the Hopi Nation, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, and the Zuni Tribe. The Commission is to partner with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) and make recommendations regarding the management of the Monument.
The Forest Service and the BLM will jointly manage the Monument, with the Forest Service managing parts of the Monument that fall within the boundaries of the National Forest System and the BLM managing the remaining parts.
In a recent press release, the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted that the designation will allow for currently authorized uses of the land that are consistent with the management of resources. The Monument will not affect existing oil and gas or mining development, but new development will be prohibited. The Monument will also not affect the State of Utah’s ability to manage fish and wildlife, including hunting and fishing. Furthermore, the Forest Service and BLM are expected to continue to issue grazing permits. Off-highway vehicles will also continue to be permitted so long as their use remains consistent with the protection of objects provided by the Monument’s creation.
There are already rumblings of attempts to repeal the order through legislative, judicial, and even executive action. Indeed, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes stated he plans to file a lawsuit to prevent the Monument’s creation. And while no president has ever repealed a national monument designation, only time will tell if President-Elect Trump will be the first to do so.
A map of the Monument can be found here: https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/national-monuments/utah/bears-ears/map
The BLM’s fact sheet on the Monument can be found here: https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/national-monuments/utah/bears-ears/fast-facts
The Presidential Proclamation can be found here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/28/proclamation-establishment-bears-ears-national-monument
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Press Release can be found here: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDAOC/bulletins/17ccc61