Recently, as we celebrated National Parks Week, Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellOutdoor gear companies take on Trump Overnight Regulation: Trump administration lifts Obama freeze on federal coal mining Trump administration ends Obama's coal-leasing freeze MORE spoke about the importance of our protected public lands both for our economy as well as our national identity. She spoke of “places that future generations should have the chance to experience for themselves.” Yet, every day lands with incredible antiquities are at risk of ongoing looting or development.

 

There is potentially no landscape in the lower 48 states that better personifies what Secretary Jewell meant than the culturally rich, breathtakingly beautiful, recreationally inspiring Bear Ears region of southern Utah. 

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With more than 100,000 cultural sites, Bears Ears is considered sacred by dozens of tribes who trace their ancestors to these lands. Yet serious cases of grave-robbing and theft of artifacts are reported on a regular basis. This is a place that should have been protected long ago. It is a region of unimaginable richness that connects us with our history, our humanity, and the natural world. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.

In addition to the immense spiritual and cultural value to Native American people, it is also an unparalleled recreational asset to our nation that must be cared for and sustained if it is to continue to offer the kind of self-exploration and discovery that draws visitors from around the globe. In the past few years, Utah has had some of the country’s highest population and economic growth driven by our proximity to and the sustainable use of our public lands.  People come to Utah to experience its history and to delight in the outdoor recreation opportunities in such pristine areas. 

Protecting and stewarding our state’s wild iconic landscapes are integral to our state’s identity and vibrant economic future. Unfortunately Utah’s political leadership continues to look backwards with an almost exclusive focus on extractive industries, failing to understand that it is our protected landscapes that attract and retain the best and the brightest to our state.  

Creating a Bear Ears National Monument represents the opportunity to protect for posterity one of the most beautiful, unique, desert and canyon ecosystems left in the world. Its nearly 1.9 million acres of existing public lands are relatively untouched by extractive industry, much as they were thousands of years ago. This is an environment that challenges the imagination, encourages outdoor adventure, sustains many cultures, and helps forge who we are as a society. I say this as both a proud American and Utah resident.

When you look at Bears Ears, you see broad support for protection – from local Navajo Chapter Houses, to 25 Native American Tribal Governments throughout the Southwest, to a full 66 percent of Utah residents based on recent polling conducted by Colorado College. Yet, it is disheartening to see our state leaders fail to show respect to the Tribal Nations and the Native American communities in our state who are calling for the protection of Bears Ears.

With a non-functional Congress unable to pass legislation of nearly any type and Utah’s Congressional leaders’ failure to take the Tribes’ proposal seriously, not incorporate the enthusiastic support of America’s outdoor industry or the majority of Utah’s citizens, it’s time for the President to step in and use his authority under the Antiquities Act to declare a national monument protecting Bears Ears.

This needs to happen quickly, before the lands are diminished further from a growing assault by off-road vehicles, antiquity looters, and a myriad of extractive industries eyeing opportunities to exploit the landscape for their own private, short-term gain. Native Americans have led this initiative, and all Americans should stand behind them in asking Congress and the president to act now and preserve a landscape essential to our collective heritage.


Peter Metcalf  was the founder and long-time CEO of Black Diamond. He lives in Park City and is currently on the board of the Outdoor Alliance and several other non-profit, business and government connected Boards.