San Juan County Considers Resolution Supporting Bears Ears

Feb 5, 2019

A resolution being considered by San Juan County commissioners would reverse its stance on protections for Bears Ears National Monument.

The previous commission supported President Donald Trump’s reduction of the monument, which shrank it by 85 percent in 2017. Trump’s move launched legal cases and reignited debate just one year after President Barack Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument.

Now with two Navajos, both Democrats, holding the majority of the commission’s three seats, the new resolution would recognize the county’s position as against Trump’s reductions.

 

At their semimonthly meeting Tuesday, commissioners heard over an hour of public comments. Citizens, including the mayors of Blanding and Bluff, shared a wide range of views on the monument.

 

Comments included stances on the county commissioners’ representation, like from Blanding City Council member Cheryl Bowers. She criticized the resolution as being introduced too soon after the new commission took office.

 

“It doesn’t show a willingness to unite our county,” Bowers said. “I ask that you, again, take the time to really speak to the people of the entire county.”

 

Oljato Chapter Vice President and Utah Diné Bikéyah board member Albert Holiday called for recognition of indigenous rights and the rejection of possible mining at Bears Ears.

 

“Our grandparents died of uranium,” Holiday said. “And we don’t want that to happen again.”

 

After comments ended, Commissioner Willie Grayeyes said it was one-sided with anti-Bears Ears views. Grayeyes added that comments would represent a greater range if the meeting was more accessible to Navajo Nation, though he wasn’t sure if such a public hearing would be arranged.

 

The commission is expected to vote on the resolution on Feb. 19.