Whose voices are heard, whose are lost, and how to find common ground in “Battle Over Bears Ears” – Nov. 9 at 10 pm

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Thursday, November 9  at 10:00 pm


“Battle Over Bears Ears” explores the deep connections to place and the vast cultural divides that are fueling the fight over how to best manage and protect a region in Southern Utah dense with archeological and cultural significance. At its heart, it’s a battle for homeland and sovereignty.

view of flat topped mountains known as bears Ears with clouds reflected in lake in frontThe most vocal proponents for creating the Bears Ears National Monument are tribal leaders from five tribes with cultural ties to the region. For them, it’s a connection to their past, found in the ancient ruins, burial grounds, kivas and petroglyphs scattered throughout its mesas and canyons. Archeologists and environmentalists are also part of the push for protection. It’s estimated that there are 100,000 archeological sites in the proposed monument, making it one of the most important cultural landscapes in the United States.

But not everyone supports the monument. For Utahns living near the boundaries, the Bears Ears region represents land that was occupied by their Native American ancestors, or homesteaded by their pioneer forefathers. It’s a land that they’re deeply connected to — land they feel is meant for them to use and manage. Monument opponents hold the belief that they — not environmentalists from Salt Lake City, not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., not backpackers who trek through the canyons once a year — are the best stewards of the place. For them, the notion of a large National Monument in their backyard amounts to federal overreach.

When President Obama declared the region a 1.35 million acre National Monument, many thought the fight was over, but for others, it was just beginning. The fight has continued through three administrations. President Trump reduced the Monument’s size by 85%. Now, President Biden is weighing in on the Monument’s future, with a promise to expand its boundaries. The battle continues — leaving the fate of this remarkable land in question.