PLS urges Interior Secretary against shrinking monument
Zinke’s interim Bears Ears report leaves landscapes vulnerable
In a document released in June, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended shrinking the borders of Bears Ears National Monument (BENM) in San Juan County, UT. This unprecedented and legally untested move could stall the economic potential of surrounding communities as the Department of the Interior (DOI) deals with the inevitable litigation by environmental groups.
In a letter to Secretary Zinke, Public Land Solutions (PLS) outlines several problems with the Bears Ears recommendation, including starving the already under-resourced Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices in the area who are in dire need of management resources to protect cultural resources. Reducing the monument, or moving its borders, also stands to further poison local politics and sentiments against the federal government.
Public Land Solutions’ previously released white paper, Economic Development Planning for Cultural Tourism in Bears Ears National Monument, draws on case studies and research detailing the economic potential for San Juan County around Bears Ears. Reducing the monument will hinder these economic prospects and cause further strife in an already complicated landscape.
Public Land Solutions urged Secretary Zinke to consider the significant negative consequences of taking executive action to abolish or downsize BENM. If Secretary Zinke chooses to pursue a legal battle over the monument status of Bears Ears, new business investments will be discouraged and delayed. While there is a need to protect traditional lifestyles in the area, a lengthy legal dispute will do nothing to change the underlying economics which control the historic boom-and-bust nature of San Juan County’s traditional industries. In effect, a legal battle over the Bears Ears will trap the region in an economic limbo that will be a true disservice to its residents. The economic opportunities presented by BENM combined with the world class cultural resources and recreation in the area, is the envy of countless communities across the West. Any diminishment of BENM, however, will be very destructive to the area economically and only feed the poisonous political climate in the region.
The PLS letter also noted that the process leading to the Bears Ears National Monument designation appropriately incorporated public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders, and conforms to the requirements of the Antiquities Act. The designation of BENM delivers local residents a unique and enviable opportunity to improve local economic conditions. Therefore, Public Land Solutions urged the administration to preserve Bears Ears National Monument as designated, provide adequate funding for a monument management plan, support a parallel economic development plan for the region, and protect the very promising economic opportunities presented by the new monument.
You can read our full letter here.