Zinke questions monument status as way to save sacred land
Zinke questions monument status as way to save sacred land
A prehistoric granary in Bears Ears National Monument overlooking Cedar Mesa
Josh Ewing Utah Dine Bikeyah
10 May, 2017, 03:06
This week, as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke conducts a "listening tour" across the region to decide whether to reverse the designation of Bears Ears National Monument or reduce its size from the 1.35 million acres of ancestral Native American lands that President Obama set aside when he created the monument on December 28, the depth and delicate nature of racial tension between many Native Americans and nonnatives has quickly become apparent.
"The Indians, they don't fully understand that a lot of the things that they now take for granted on those lands, they won't be able to do if it's made clearly into a monument or a wilderness", Hatch said in Salt Lake City.
"We are concerned and anxious that he's not listening to the tribes", said Cassandra Begay, who serves as the tribal liaison on the board of the Salt Lake City-based Peaceful Advocates for Native Dialogue & Organizing Support.
"Tribes are trying to have a voice but every week Utah congressional delegates are claiming that there are no tribes in San Juan county and that no locals support the monument".
They offer a counterpoint to Adams, suggesting the monument will help the economy by bringing more visitors who will spend money at hotels and restaurants.
Zinke was accompanied by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Rep. Rob Bishop - both Republicans - and several county commissioners, all of whom opposed the designation.
Stickers and posters against Bears Ears National Monument in Blanding, Utah.
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"They're doing this the right way", said Bishop, who backed a legislative alternative to the Bears Ears designation known as the Utah Public Lands Initiative.
Zinke and Herbert were expected to hold a news conference later in the day before taking a hike to one of the ancient ruins within the Bears Ears site.
But natives living close to the Bears Ears monument anxious they would lose access to wood gathering and other traditional subsistence activities. She was following the secretary as he greeted those gathered at Bears Ears, a 1.35 million-acre area in southeastern Utah that is one of 27 monuments threatened by President Donald Trump's recent executive orders.
But as Zinke starts a 45-day review of Bears Ears and a 120-day review of the others, monument supporters say he has not engaged enough with the local community.
Zinke said Monday that it's clear that sacred tribal lands in Bears Ears should be preserved, but openly questioned if a monument is the right way. They believe the monument adds vital protections to tribal lands where members perform ceremonies, collect herbs and wood for medicinal and spiritual purposes, and do healing rituals. When the former Montana House lawmaker did not respond, she continued: "Zinke, are you going to visit with the tribes more?"
"Be nice", Zinke says again.
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Zinke brushed back questions over a lack of public forums during his visit to the state, arguing that Interior's decision to create a public comment forum for the monuments review on the agency's website will allow more individual voices to be heard.
Zinke had met with tribal leaders the day before.
His visit comes after an executive order signed last month by President Donald Trump's called for a review of 27 national monuments established by several former presidents.
Conservation groups contend that the monument review puts in limbo protections on large swaths of land that are home to ancient cliff dwellings, towering Sequoias, deep canyons and ocean habitats where seals, whales and sea turtles roam.
He insisted there is no predetermined outcome of his review, saying he may not recommend the monuments be made smaller or rescinded, and he might even recommend an addition.
Environmental groups have vowed to file lawsuits if Trump attempts to rescind monuments - a move that would be unprecedented. On Tuesday, Zinke plans to tour more of the Bears Ears area on horseback. "States count. America counts".
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