President Obama announced the designation of Bear Ears National Monument (proclamation-establishment-bears-ears-national-monument). I spent some time in the Bear Ears area last spring as well as on numerous other trips. The area is huge with too many deep canyons to ever fully explore as well as some grand high mountain country that due to the surrounding landscapes is under appreciated.
Not much to do with Washington State perhaps, but I do find the sound bite language fascinating. Below are quotes and press releases regarding the designation. While in Bluff and Mexican Hat last spring I did get a chance to talk with a few folks about the possible monument designation or other ways of managing this large tract of public land. Although a touchy subject between locals, they were comfortable offering their opinions and perspectives to me. Those opinions were surprising nuanced and perhaps had not been well served by the broader national discourse regarding managing public lands.
I should note that the Town of Bluff officially supported the monument designation contrary to the to "We mourn with the people of San Juan County" (see the Matt Anderson quote below). That quote also ignores the support for the monument by decedents of peoples that have lived in what is now San Juan County for thousands of years.
The monument designation by the President uses the Antiquities Act. There area over 100,000 archaeological sites within the monument area, many of which are stone masonry structures. So the large designation can not be said to be not in keeping with preservation of antiquities. Our understanding of the past civilization that farmed and built stone buildings in this area continues to evolve and improve. It is a fascination place to stand next to stone ruins and try to visualize the farming that took place in the valleys below during a period of more favorable climate for agriculture.
Below are press release statements via Salt Lake City Tribune.