Published March 26, 2018
BLUFF, UTAH – Let the courts settle the ongoing litigation!
That’s what Utah Diné Bikéyah (UDB) told the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) at an open-house scoping meeting Monday in Blanding, Utah. UDB’s comments come in response to how the Trump Administration, BLM and USFS have essentially ignored tribal consultation and collaborative management. Tribes and Native Americans are key stakeholders who successfully advocated for the designation of the 1.3 million acre Bears Ears National Monument (BENM) in December 2017.
The federal agencies are moving forward with hosting public meetings on how to proceed with the Shash Jaa’ and Indian Creek Units – which make up only 15-percent of the original BENM – and at the same time ignoring the tribal voices of the Hopi, Ute, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni.
“We have not changed our position and ask that the BLM and USFS to halt its public meetings until the courts settle the ongoing litigation,” said Mark Maryboy, board member for Utah Diné Bikéyah. He asks that citizens of the Navajo Nation, Hopi, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni peoples to attend the second public scoping meeting today in Bluff from 4:30 pm to 8 p.m. at the Bluff Community Center.
Robbie Bond, youth founder of Kids Speaks for Parks, attended Monday’s scoping meeting in Blanding. He was joined by approximately 200 people that turned out to submit verbal and written comments to the federal agencies. Robbie asked for full protections of the Bears Ears Region as put forth in the original BENM proclamation.
“Protecting Bears Ears is important to Kids Speak for Parks because Kids Speak for Parks is an organization dedicated to educating youth about the importance of the environment,” Bond said. “Without knowing the importance of the environment, then you won’t be able to teach kids. And I believe that if Bears Ears were to be destroyed, it would be terrible for Kids Speak for Parks.”
Bond leads a growing coalition of fourth-graders who told Trump, “HANDS OFF OUR PARKS AND MONUMENTS.” The 10-year-old is in the process of traveling to all 27 national monuments under threat by Trump’s executive orders, including both BENM and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.
In support of these testimonies, UDB encourages the public submit their comments here by April 11th and to remind the federal agencies that:
- Tribal consultation and collaborative management with Native Americans should be central in any BLM & USFS decision-making, including in the Indian Creek Unit;
- Tribal access to and prioritization of Native American cultural resources must be maintained, such as: the collection of firewood and medicinal plants, access for ceremonial use, and the ongoing identification and protection of all tribal, cultural, burial, and historic sites;
- Key wildlife species and medicinal plants should be studied and conserved for generations to come;
- Agencies must ensure that the ancient structures and rock art are preserved to the greatest degree possible, including protection from looting, sound disturbances, development, and other intrusions;
- The spiritual significance of this region to Tribes must be understood and managed accordingly;
- Significant effort must be made to incorporate traditional knowledge of the five Tribes with ceremonial, cultural, and historic connections to Bears Ears into the Management Plan, and that this relationship to the land should be understood and protected;
- Request that BLM & USFS extend its comment period an additional 60 days to allow the public more time to comment;
- Insist the BLM & USFS halt planning of these units until the litigation over the Trump proclamation of Bears Ears is resolved by the courts; and
- In addition to government-to-government consultations, incorporate experts designated by the tribes in the planning process. These experts may include cultural monitors, tribal historians, tribal elders, and others knowledgeable about the cultural, religious, and environmental significance of the Bears Ears National Monument, including the Indian Creek and Shash Jaa’ units.
Tara Benally, of Tselakai Dezza, Utah, was another Bears Ears supporter who told the BLM and USFS that “Bears Ears National Monument should have been left the way it was, because the two smaller monuments do not give the protection that Bears Ears National Monument had when the five-tribes (Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition) put it together. It was not about control, but collaboration.”