Bears Ears National Monument
Protecting 1.35 million acres filled with ancient cliff dwellings, ponderosa forests, five-thousand-year-old petroglyphs, mesas, canyons and red rock, Bears Ears National Monument (www.fs.fed.us/visit/bears-ears-national-monument) is the newest addition to the awesome collection of American parks.
Some notable landmarks within the monument include the Bears Ears Buttes, Cedar Mesa, White Canyon, San Juan River, Indian Creek, Comb Ridge and Valley of the Gods. Their treasures, described by David Roberts' In Search of the Old Ones, are nothing short of exquisite.
Archaeological sites dating back 8500 years have been threatened by vandalism and destruction over recent years. The Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain and Ute Indian tribes led the Bears Ears proposal, and will have a strong stake in the management of the monument, a status that makes this area's conservation approach unique among the Utah parks.
The designation has been plagued by controversy. Protecting this vast area goes against energy leasing and development interests that are very strong in the state. Governor Gary Herbert's vocal support to remove protection for the monument to promote fossil fuel development was met by the Outdoor Retailer show pulling out of holding its annual gathering in Salt Lake City.
Patagonia's founder, Yvon Chouinard, spearheaded the boycott with an editorial letter arguing that outdoor recreation brings $12 billion in consumer spending in Utah and supports 122,000 jobs – three times the number of positions that the fossil fuel industry offers in Utah.
As the Trump administration rallies to increase jobs in the fossil fuel sector and ease environmental protections on public lands, the status of Bears Ears remains precarious. Only this designation protects Lockhart Basin bordering Canyonlands, considered Utah's Serengeti for its pronghorn antelope and mountain lions, from future energy leasing.
No park infrastructure has been created yet, though parts of the monument feature trails, information centers and campgrounds already. For updates on the site, its highlights and its status, check out www.bearsearscoalition.org.