Published July 12, 2017
SALT LAKE CITY – A mere 15 days were provided for the public to offer their opinions during the initial comment period regarding the future of Bears Ears National Monument (BENM). Despite the unusually brief public comment period, more than 685,000 comments had already been submitted in support of BENM by the close of the initial comment period on May 26, 2017. Utah Diné Bikéyah collected well over 20,000 comments in support of Bears Ears National Monument, including a significant portion from grassroots Native Americans in the San Juan County area.
On June 10, 2017, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke presented the Interim Report that called for “the existing boundary of the BENM [to] be modified,” despite an overwhelming ratio of support for BENM expressed by the public. The Interim Report also officially re-opened the BENM public comment period through July 10.
Utah Diné Bikéyah collected an additional 2,200+ public comments during this secondary comment period, again representing the strong local Native American majority that favors the existing boundary and protected Monument status of Bears Ears National Monument. Moreover, according to an analysis by the Center for Western Priorities, 98% of all comments received by the Department of Interior are in support of keeping or expanding National Monuments.; 55% of comments specifically mention BENM; and 88% of comments from Utah residents support Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments remaining National Monuments.
This last round of public comment was a futile attempt by the Administration to garner public opposition. There is only one proper outcome in the face of overwhelming public support for the BENM, as well as a solid public record that reflects the Monument’s essential role in protecting the cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and natural resources of the region: The Administration needs to leave Bears Ears National Monument intact and preserved for future generations.