Native American tribes call for ‘immediate action’ to protect Bears Ears National Monument

·2-min read
Ancient granaries, part of the House on Fire ruins in the South Fork of Mule Canyon in the Bears Ears National Monument   (Getty Images)
Ancient granaries, part of the House on Fire ruins in the South Fork of Mule Canyon in the Bears Ears National Monument (Getty Images)

Native American tribes have called for President Joe Biden to restore protections to Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument after Trump cut its boundaries by 85 per cent.

The Obama Administration established the Bears Ears National Monument in 2016, before the Trump Administration drastically decreased the protected area. After Biden was elected, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland submitted her recommendations regarding the site. President Biden pledged to review Trump’s rollback on the nation’s national monuments, but no progress has been made on the Bears Ears site.

“Eight months have passed since you signed Executive Order 13990 directing a comprehensive review of the Trump administration’s illegal reduction of the monument’s area and protections and three months have passed since it was reported that Secretary Haaland submitted her report to you,” read the letter addressed to President Biden and obtained by The Washington Post.

Sacred sites are at risk of “desecration, looting, vandalism, and misinformed visitation,” continued the letter signed by Clark W Tenakhongva, vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe and Henry Stevens, Jr, a representative for the Navajo Nation, on behalf of the Bears Ear Inter-Tribal Coalition, made up of the Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute and Navajo tribes.

Tribes have warned that more delays will further degrade sacred sites, due to continued permits for motorised recreation, plus possible projects like water wells, cattle grazing and mining.

“We have tried to be patient and respectful as we await your decision on restoration. However, the longer action is not taken, real harm, much permanent, is occurring on this sacred landscape. Further, until you act, we cannot effectively work with federal agencies on the tribal land management plan we have been working on for the last three and a half years,” concluded the letter. “We respectfully request that you take immediate action to restore the protections of the sacred cultural landscape we call Bears Ears.”

Threatened areas have been protected more than a hundred times under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the power to create national monuments, and safeguard significant places.

The law came about after the looting of artefacts by private collectors at the turn of the 20th century. President Barack Obama established 26 monuments, more than any president before him. Donald Trump ordered a review of the law and all the designations of national monuments made since 1996.

Mr Trump signed an executive order to scale back sites, so federal land could be open to development, including drilling and mining.

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