Southwest Groups Ask New Interior Secretary To Protect Bears Ears

March 08, 2017
Laurel Morales
Navajo elder Jonah Yellowman picks up a piece of pottery lying on the ground of the new Bears Ears National Monument.

Seven archaeology groups in the southwest have asked the new Interior secretary to support the Bears Ears national monument designation. Utah lawmakers are calling for an elimination of the monument. 

Former President Barack Obama designated 1.35 million acres surrounding the twin buttes known as Bears Ears just before leaving office. 

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told the Billings Gazette there are areas that should have special protection but the Bears Ears designation, “smells of political agenda rather than gaining consensus.” 

Carrie Heinonen, director of the Museum of Northern Arizona, said the Obama administration extensively vetted this site. The museum is one of seven groups that wrote Zinke a letter explaining the scientific importance of Bears Ears.

“The risk to future understanding of cultures that came before us is significant in this particular national monument due to the extraordinarily rich nature of the number of objects housed there,” Heinonen said.

There are more than 12,000 years of history represented at the monument. Archaeologists estimate 100,000 cultural sites. Several tribes consider Bears Ears to be sacred.