SALT LAKE CITY – President Barack Obama designated Bears Ears National Monument (BENM) in southeastern Utah on December 28, 2016. Concurrently, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that the agencies would conduct open house meetings to begin engaging with the public and stakeholders. The BLM and US Forest Service (USFS) have reached out to state and local government, stakeholders, and the tribes to schedule meetings this month and will host open houses with the public beginning in February.
“The issuance of the proclamation designating the Bears Ears National Monument provides a new opportunity for public engagement and collaboration with partners and state and local government. I understand the strong feelings behind this new designation, both for and against, and I am committed to listening. Maintaining relationships will be the key to our success,” said Ed Roberson, BLM-Utah State Director.
Managing a national monument requires input, coordination, and expertise from many people and public involvement is a key part of the process. To ensure there is input and coordination during the planning process and in monument management, the proclamation established a Bears Ears (Tribal) Commission and directed the BLM and the USFS to create a new Monument Advisory Committee (MAC). Consistent with current commitments and to further the ongoing public conversation about the monument, the BLM and USFS are dedicated to listening to concerns and moving forward in a measured way.
“We are committed to collaborating with state and local governments, tribal nations and individuals in developing a plan for co-management of the monument,” said Nora Rasure, USFS Regional Forester. “The designation of the monument will help ensure the area’s unique biological diversity, recreational opportunities, geologic features, archaeological resources, wilderness and scenic resource are conserved for future generations.”
This winter, the BLM and USFS will engage with a variety of interested parties. “Open houses will provide a forum for the public to ask questions regarding the boundaries, requirements, and effects of the proclamation, including what has changed and what has not,” said Roberson. Opportunities for engagement will continue to develop.
On January 18, 2017, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signed a charter for creating the MAC. The BLM will publish a call for nominations in the Federal Register to recruit 12 members for the new MAC, including representation from state and local governments, tribes, recreation users, local business owners and private landowners. The MAC will consist of citizens and representatives with a variety of backgrounds who will advise the BLM and USFS on developing a monument management plan and on key issues for managing the new national monument.
In late February, the BLM and USFS will host the first public open house. The BLM and USFS will also meet with the five tribes identified in the proclamation as forming the Bears Ears Commission (the Hopi Nation, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, and Zuni Tribe). The two agencies will also meet with other tribes that have a cultural affiliation with the area identified in the Bears Ears National Monument proclamation. The BLM and USFS look forward to meeting with key partners including San Juan County and the State of Utah.
The BLM and USFS will develop additional website content for the national monument, social media posts, and provide more detailed map information. As new steps and stages develop, the agencies will provide additional information to the public.
Bears Ears National Monument consists of 1.35 million acres of public land that the BLM and USFS managed prior to the designation, and marks the fifth national monument jointly managed by the BLM and USFS. The national monument was designated to protect American Indian heritage and archaeological resources, as well as natural and paleontological resources in the Bears Ears region, a designation that was first envisioned 80 years ago. The BLM manages 1.06 million acres and the USFS manages 290,000 acres of the national monument. For more information, please see the respective agency websites: https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/national-monuments/utah and https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/bears-ears-national-monument.