February 2015 - The Bears Ears

Feb 14, 2015

Captain's Log 1XE, Day 14 in the month of February in the Earth Calendar Year of 2015.

There are incredible things about Utah that you see and there are incredible things about Utah that you don't see. As we head to Blanding on this fine winter day the air is smooth as silk and you can see forever. What we don't see are some of the plans afoot in Utah's halls of state government for many parts of this unique and spectacular landscape.

This is the landscape that boasts sandstone monoliths like Castleton and Fisher Towers, bulging plateaus like the San Rafael Swell with its deep narrow slots, shimmering mountain ranges (the Henrys and La Sals), and forested mountain tops like the Abajo Mountains (with Monticello and Blanding nestled at their base), and canyons (Dark and Arch Canyons) that carve their way to Lake Powell. On and on. Everywhere you look and especially everywhere you look from a small aircraft, the light and sheer majesty of the place takes your breath away.

What you don't see right now are the relentless attacks on our public lands. Ever since the Monkey Wrench Gang tried to stave off the inevitable, the delegation from Utah has never ceased in their desire to seize Utah's public lands and utilize them for resource extraction.

From the air you can see what they call the Tar Sands Triangle close to where Butch Cassidy hid near the Maze. From the nexus of the Colorado and the Green Rivers, all the way to the Dirty Devil River near Hanksville, there are plans afoot to develop any and every bit of energy resources that can be found. From tar sands to oil and gas, coal, potash and oil shale, the plans are moving ahead. Only the continued efforts of organizations such as SUWA, the Grand Canyon Trust, NRDC, Sierra Club and others, are keeping this movement at bay.

So, armed with this knowledge and an intimate understanding of the area, we are working diligently to assist the Navajo Nation as they try to carve out protections in an area called the Bears Ears, which is South and West of the Abajos. The Bears Ears is a spiritual mecca for the Navajos, the Ute Mountain Utes, and Hopi, much utilized for ceremonies and hunting, and filled with ancient artifacts.

The Navajo Nation is mobilizing and the Utah Diné Bikéyah are working with a coalition of conservation organizations to bring this area, and much of the greater Navajo San Juan Basin, some protection. It is a remarkable area with the heavily forested Bears Ears giving way to canyons and ravines filled with diverse wildlife, and culminating in red-rock Indian Creek - home of some of the best rock climbing in an area renowned for great climbing.

It is our hope that by flying the elders and leaders of the Navajo Nation, and regional press we can garner enough attention to get some form of protection for this inspiring and spiritual ancestral home, so that the tribes who hold this area sacred may continue to visit this undisturbed and culturally important region, and to continue to hunt and fish here as did their predecessors.


Bruce Gordon

"Society is like a stew. If you don't stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top." Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang.