The Native American coalition that supported the creation of Bears Ears National Monument in Southeast Utah is opposing a bill that is intended to resolve lingering controversies surrounding the protected area.
In 2016, President Obama set aside 1.3 million acres for the monument, but in December of last year, President Trump issued an executive order slashing it to two parcels totaling 200,000 acres. Critics say presidents can’t unilaterally shrink monuments, and five lawsuits have been filed against his action. Last week, Utah Congressman John Curtis, a Republican, introduced HR 4532, which would legislatively shrink Bears Ears and thus negate the lawsuits. Curtis says it would protect resources by imposing a mineral withdrawal on the original 1.3 million acres and providing at least 10 law officers at each monument unit. But a representative of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, made up of five local tribes, testified to a House subcommittee on January 9th that the coalition “adamantly opposes” the bill. Shaun Papoose of the Ute Indian Tribe said the bill “pours salt on the wound caused by the President’s unlawful action.” Papoose said it “was not developed in consultation with the Indian tribes who hold these lands sacred and would be most impacted.” He recommended instead that Congress hold hearings on an alternate bill supported by the coalition that would expand Bears Ears to nearly 2 million acres.