Statement from Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition on plans to meet with White House following failure of Public Lands Initiative


Monument Valley, UT (June 23, 2016) – Late last year, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition formally broke away from discussions with the Utah congressional delegation on their flawed and long-delayed Public Lands Initiative.

At the time, we noted that the Utah congressional delegation refused to give serious consideration or respect to our proposal to protect our ancestral lands, and that the process to develop the Public Lands Initiative did not adequately include Tribal nations. Unfortunately, in the intervening 6 months, the approach from the Utah congressional delegation has not changed. Not only has the Delegation continued to dismiss the perspectives of Tribal Governments, but a recent draft of their proposed legislation that was shared with some parties continues to have fatal flaws that Tribes can not support while failing to protect culturally important areas in the Bears Ears area

As of today, Congress has only 42 legislative days remaining in its session, and there is still no Public Lands Initiative bill introduced in Congress and no viable legislative path forward.

The Bears Ears region faces urgent threats from looting and vandalism. Destructive uranium, oil and gas, and potash mining projects are being proposed. Unnecessary and damaging roads are on the drawing boards. Protection for this important cultural landscape cannot be delayed any longer. We are more certain than ever that the best path forward to protect the Bears Ears region, and for a meaningful Tribal role in collaboratively managing the area is for President Obama to designate a Bears Ears National Monument.

A contingent of Tribal leaders representing the Tribes that make up the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute, Navajo, Ute Tribe of Unitah and Ouray, Zuni) will be travelling to Washington the week of July 4th to meet with White House officials to make a respectful and urgent request for the President to act and designate the Bears Ears National Monument.

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The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition formed in July 2015 with the mission to protect and preserve the Bears Ears region, to which they have ancestral and contemporary ties. The Bears Ears National Monument proposal is named for the Bears Ears buttes – two prominent landforms at the center of a landscape rich in antiquities, with more than 100,000 archaeological and cultural sites that are sacred to dozens of tribes. However, rampant looting and destruction of the region’s structures, artwork, and gravesites is ongoing. www.ProtectBearsEars.org.

Media Contact: Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, co-chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and councilwoman for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe; 970-529-6696; rwhiteskunk@utemountain.org

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