The campaign to designate Bears Ears as a national monument was born out of false narratives. Unfortunately, those who wish to drown out local voices are still employing these tactics. Earlier this month, members of Utah Women Unite (UWU) presented unsubstantiated claims attempting to discredit the campaign to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument (“Bears Ears National Monument will benefit Utah,” Times-Independent, March 30). We are here to set the record straight.
UWU claim: The KSL ad campaign was largely funded by Sutherland Institute.
Sutherland Institute donated its time and efforts to produce the commercials, but all costs to air the ads came directly from the pockets of locals and the Stewards of San Juan County. This grassroots effort stands in contrast to the out-of-state funding used to support the Bears Ears National Monument campaign.
UWU claim: Local Native Americans want a national monument.
A majority of San Juan County Native Americans oppose the Bears Ears National Monument and have actively voiced their opposition through resolutions, protests, and other grassroots efforts. What Native American support does exist largely comes from outside of San Juan County — far removed from the land and people who know it best.
UWU claim: Multiple use of Bears Ears will continue.
San Juan County has to look no farther than its neighbors in Kane and Garfield counties to see that multiple-use promises are not kept. President Bill Clinton guaranteed that grazing would remain at “historical levels” in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, yet the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has since revoked permits and closed much-needed rangeland. Today, grazing is down almost one-third of what it was just 20 years ago.
UWU claim: Those opposed to the monument want the county to control public lands.
The BLM and U.S. Forest Service’s $6 billion deferred maintenance backlog is worrisome. However, neither Sutherland nor Stewards of San Juan County has called on San Juan County to take control of public lands. We are simply asking for more local input in land management decisions.
UWU claim: Bears Ears National Monument will lead to a more vibrant local economy.
San Juan County currently contains all or part of one national park, three national monuments and a national recreation area. Yet it is the poorest county in the state of Utah and one of the most economically depressed counties in the entire nation. Healthy economies rely on a host of activities to drive them, and tourism alone is not the answer to San Juan County’s economic hardships.
Matthew Anderson is a policy analyst at the Coalition for Self-Government in the West, a project of Sutherland Institute. Jami Bayles is a lifelong resident of Blanding, Utah, and president of Stewards of San Juan County.