Jun 20, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Native American tribes will now co-manage Bears Ears National Monument

The sun sets over Monument Valley in the distance as seen from the Bears Ears National Monument.
The sun sets over Monument Valley in the distance as seen from the Bears Ears National Monument. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

The Biden administration reached a historic new agreement Saturday that will give five Native American tribes more say over day-to-day management of the Bears Ears National Monument.

Why it matters: The co-management deal represents a new chapter in the relationship between tribes and the federal government, which has often been tense.

Details: The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service signed the agreement with five tribes near Bears Ears, including the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation and the Pueblo of Zuni.

  • Each tribe will have one elected officer added to the Bears Ears Commission, the agreement explained.
  • The commission and the federal agencies will be in charge of "planning, management, conservation, restoration and protection of the sacred lands" within Bears Ears, according to the agreement.
  • They will also be tasked with protecting "ceremonies, rituals, and traditional uses that are part of the Tribal Nations' way of life," the agreement reads.
  • The BLM and the U.S. Forest Service will provide resources to each tribe to support the new agreement, the BLM said in a news release.

What they're saying: "Today, instead of being removed from a landscape to make way for a public park, we are being invited back to our ancestral homelands to help repair them and plan for a resilient future," said Carleton Bowekaty, co-chair of the Bears Ears Commission and lieutenant governor of the Pueblo of Zuni, in a statement.

  • Bureau of Land Management director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a news release that the agreement is "an important step as we move forward together to ensure that tribal expertise and traditional perspectives remain at the forefront of our joint decision-making for the Bears Ears National Monument."

The big picture: Bears Ears has become a central character of America's ongoing battle over the country's public lands, the Washington Post reports.

  • Former President Obama established the Bears Ears National Monument, calling it a "profoundly sacred" land for Native American tribes.
  • In 2017, former President Trump reduced Bears Ears by 1.1 million acres.
  • President Biden expanded Bears Ears to cover 1.36 million acres, which was slightly larger than Obama's previous establishment, in 2021.
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