Designated as a National Monument in December 2016 as one of President Barack Obama's last acts, Bears Ears originally covered a large 1.35-million-acre swath of southeastern Utah. The area protects important sites of cultural significance to Native American peoples, with ancient rock art, dwellings, ceremonial sites and granaries in a landscape of mesas and desert canyons. However, in December 2017 President Donald Trump issued a controversial proclamation that reduces the monument's size by a whopping 85% to 201,876 acres.
Trump's action opens the door for mining, gas extraction and development opportunities in formerly protected areas. Federal lawsuits have been filed to challenge the proclamation but it could be tied-up in courts for years. Bears Ears, which lies just north of Mexican Hat and west of Blanding, is co-managed by the BLM and Forest Service.