Bears Ears is named after a pair of high hills that dominate most of the landscape of southeastern Utah, and is home to ancient indigenous cliff dwellings and sacred burials. It is the ancestral home of five tribal nations – the Navajo people, the Hopi tribe, the Ute Indian tribe, the Ute mountain Ute tribe and the Zuni Pueblo.
Conservation groups welcomed the news. “Thank you President Biden, you have listened to the Indigenous Tribes and the American people and ensured that these landscapes are safeguarded for future generations,” said Jennifer Rokala, director of the Center for Western Priorities, a human rights organization. “The cultural and paleontological resources of the landscapes of Bear Ears and the Great Staircase are too important to be put at risk.”
Ms. Haaland, the country’s first Indian cabinet secretary, is a member of Laguna Pueblo. She now heads a federal agency that has played a central role in the movement and abuse of Indigenous communities from coast to coast for much of the country’s history, and she has made Native American issues a top priority.
In an interview with The Guardian in 2019, Ms Haaland described a recent trip to Bears Ears. “There are some pretty amazing ruins there, and you know, I don’t even like to call them ruins because in our culture, in the pueblo culture, if you recognize our ancestors, they are there,” she said. “The spirit of the people never leaves.”
But in a joint statement, the Utah Congressional delegation called the president’s decision a “crushing blow” to his efforts to find a lasting solution that cannot be changed by every administration.
“Rather than seizing the opportunity to build unity in a divided region and provide resources and lasting protection for sacred antiquities by seeking a mutually beneficial and permanent legislative solution, President Biden has fanned the flames of controversy and ignored the contributions of the communities closest to these monuments,” the statement said. two senators and three Utah representatives, all Republicans.
The new Bears Ears border will actually include one element of the Trump-era borders. When the Trump administration reduced the total size of the monument by nearly a million acres, it also added 11,200 acres that had not previously been protected. The new borders will restore the original Obama-era border and include an additional 11,200 Trump-era acres.