The first time I went to Bears Ears National Monument was for spring break two years ago. Myself and two friends drove non-stop for nearly 24 hours so that we could climb it’s world renowned canyon walls. Never in my life have I been so awe-inspired by a place so wild and isolated. The news that Bears Ears had become a national monument nearly left me in tears of happiness. Unfortunately, this wild land is now at risk once more. Removing the protection afford to the Bears Ears region by naming it a “national monument” puts a great deal at risk. Bears Ears National Monument is economically integral as well as historically and ecologically significant. Removing the protections Bears Ears currently has would be both detrimental to the economy of Utah as well as to the tribes and endangered species that utilize the region.
Bears Ears National Monument is home to a substantial portion of Utah’s outdoor recreation industry. The area is a world class climbing destination, as well as base jumping, ATVing, hiking, backpacking, et cetera. According to data from 2011 and 2012, Utah’s outdoor recreation industry generated $12 billion in consumer spending, $856 million in local and state tax revenue, $3.6 billion in wages and salaries, and 122k in jobs (Outdoor Industry Association). Bears Ears National Monument brings visitors from all over the world for its beauty and the various forms of outdoor recreation it has to offer, and keeping it a National Monument would only offer more economic value to the area as well as more opportunity for jobs and tax revenue. According to data collected in 2011, the outdoor recreation employs over twice as many Americans as oil and gas, supporting 6.1 million Americans compared to 2.2 million in oil and gas jobs.
Economic benefit aside, Bears Ears National Monument is historically significant. According to Bears Ears Coallition, “Bears Ears is home to more than 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites, considered sacred by many tribes” (Bears Ears Coallition). These sites are dated to be at least 700 years old, making them historically significant to North American history as well as integral to cultural identities among the 34 different tribes that have cultural and spiritual ties to the region. By removing the protection afforded to this area by making it a national monument, these lands are subject to grave robbing, desecration of sacred sites, looting, and vandalism. Furthermore, the diverse ecology offered by Bears Ears is used in both medicine and food sources for the native people that still inhabit and utilize the area. According to a study done by Jenny Rowland, Research and Advocacy Manager for the Public Lands Project at CAP, when compared to national parks- Arches; Canyonlands; Glacier; Grand Canyon; Rocky Mountain; Yellowstone; and Yosemite, she found that, “Bears Ears is in the top 10 percent of similarly sized places in the West for ecological intactness and connectivity, two factors considered essential for biodiversity and landscape-level conservation” (Rowland, American Progress). In her article written for American Progress, Rowland expands upon the significance offered by Bears Ears, calling it one of the lowest areas of light pollution (it’s in the top 4 percent). In terms of diversity, Bears Ears is home to at least 18 species listed under the endangered species act (Rowland, American Progress). By ignoring the danger placed on this area by removing its National Monument title, the American government is putting an ecologically, and culturally, significant area at risk.
With this information in mind, the cultural and ecological significance as well as benefit afforded to the national and Utah based economy, it is detrimental that the protections given to this area as a national monument are not only preserved but continue to be preserved for generations to come. Pope John Paul II said, “The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations” (Paul II, 1987) Removing the title of “National Monument” from the Bears Ears region, is not faithful stewardship of the American nation’s public lands. It is our duty, as American’s, to preserve our wild spaces for generations to come; to grant access to them in manners that will not destroy their economic, ecological, or historical magnitude but enhance these significant and monumental factors instead. Save Bears Ears National Monument, save our nations remaining wild west.
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