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Debate Intensifies Over Bears Ears Monument Designation

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  • Various advocacy groups release studies and information for and against national monument designation for the Bears Ears
  • Inter-tribal coalition and San Juan County Commission at odds over monument designation 

The debate is intensifying over whether President Obama should designate 1.9 million acres in southeast Utah as the Bears Ears National Monument. A new telephone poll in Utah found strong support for the monument, with voters statewide favoring it 71 to 20 percent. Respondents cited protection of historic and cultural resources as one of the main reasons. However, critics say the validity poll, which was conducted for Creation Justice Ministries, a Christian environmental group, was slanted to draw positive responses. Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Tribune reports the Utah legislature is set to pass a resolution in special session opposing the monument. Utah Congressman Rob Bishop says he will soon introduce national legislation offering an alternative, less-restrictive management plan for public lands. And the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank in Salt Lake City, has released a five-minute video anti-monument video.  features San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally and other local Native Americans who say a monument designation could restrict access. But in a recent op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, Grand Canyon Trust executive director Bill Heddon notes that the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, and Uintah-Ouray Ute tribes have all formally supported the monument proposal they crafted, which has a strong tribal management component. Heddon calls the proposal “visionary”.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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