Trump Administration Will Allow Off-Road Vehicles in Much of Bears Ears Monument

The Cave Towers of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.       Photo: Katherine Frey, The Washington Post

After having shrunk the Bears Ears National Monument drastically, the Administration announced last Friday a new management plan for what remains of the monument and, according to CBS News, the agency chose the plan that only closes about 42 square miles to off-road vehicles rather than the option that would have closed nearly 184 square miles. The Bureau of Land Management’s plan for the Bears Ears National Monument argued that the historic sites most at risk will remain off-limits from off-road vehicles, but environmental and Native American groups cried foul because lawsuits are still pending challenging the monument’s downsizing.

Why This Matters:  The Trump Administration continues to race ahead with development on sensitive and vulnerable sacred sites for Native Americans — historical and cultural treasures that should be preserved for future generations of all Americans, but especially for the Tribes for whom this land is sacred. And they have summarily removed Tribes from the monument’s stakeholder management board.  The rationale for the decision is to enhance recreational opportunities and ensure access to traditional uses — but dirt bikes and dune buggies are not compatible with preservation and appreciation of the culture and history within the remaining monument. Only 15% of the original monument remains, and now it will be criss-crossed with tracks from joyriders and hunters for whom this land means nothing.  Disturbed forever.  

Like Robbing Your Grandmother

Native American leaders were angry.  “It’s like seeing that your grandmother’s house has been robbed,” said Carleton Bowekaty co-chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, in a statement. “These lands are sacred to us and they are being destroyed — sometimes inadvertently — by people who don’t understand our culture and way of life.”

  • Native America groups had petitioned the government for years and finally in 2016 President Barack Obama created Bears Ears National Monument to protect sacred lands that are home to ancient cliff dwellings and other artifacts.
  • After taking office, President Trump reviewed 27 monuments and decided to downsize Bears Ears by about 85 percent to 315 square miles.
  • Now only 42 square miles of the 315 miles remaining will have full protection.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans wrote in protesting this plan.
  • The unprotected areas of the monument will also now be available to be cleared so that it can be used for cattle grazing as well.

Adding insult to injury, the plan, according to The Washington Post, also removes five Native American tribes from the management board of a monument they fought to designate.

To Go Deeper: This Washington Post story about what remains of Bears Ears is worthy of your time.

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