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Bears Ears Review Draws Criticism from Tribal and Environmental Groups, Optimism from Utah Leaders

U.S. Geological Survey

Tribal coalitions and conservation groups are reacting with dismay to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s compromise recommendations on the new Bears Ears National Monument in Southeast Utah. On Monday, Zinke released an interim report on the controversial monument in which he recommended it be made smaller to focus on areas with archaeological, cultural, and historic resources. Those would get more infrastructure, such as bathrooms and parking lots, to handle increased visitation. Zinke also suggested Congress consider designating some of the land removed from the monument as a national conservation area instead. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which represents five local tribes, issued a statement calling Zinke’s proposal “a slap in the face to the members of our Tribes and an affront to Indian people all across the country.” The Utah-based conservation group Friends of Cedar Mesa said any meaningful shrinkage of the Monument would remove protections for areas with significant resources. And the nonprofit Western Values Project labeled the report “an affront to Teddy Roosevelt and the legacy of the Antiquities Act.” But a number of Utah’s leaders.praised Zinke’s recommendations. San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally told KSJD Zinke had done a good job listening to their concerns. "Shrinking is good," she said.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal, and was the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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