EcoFlight recently participated in a tribal gathering with members of Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Hopi, Zuni, Pueblo and Hualapai tribes and flew them over a landscape that is special to all of them in San Juan County, Utah called Bears Ears.
Native Americans are calling for the protection of the Bears Ears in Southeastern Utah as a national conservation area or national monument. The plan would allow for a diversity of uses and designations of the land, while directing resources towards priority management issues, such as cultural and natural resource protection. After identifying important cultural and biological areas, maps were combined to create the boundaries of the proposed 1.9 million acre Bears Ears National Conservation Area which includes wilderness designations and co-managed areas. Many tribal leaders are proposing that this conservation region be set aside to protect traditional activities like collecting medicines, herbs, and cultural items, conducting ceremonies, as well as hunting and gathering firewood, and to protect sacred places, including Cedar Mesa, White Canyon, Dark Canyon, Nokai Dome, Abajo Peak, Ruin Park, the San Juan River, and Comb Ridge. The region also contains some of our country's richest archaeological sites and continues to serve as a pilgrimage site for many tribal members.
As part of Congressman Bishop's Eastern Utah Land-Use initiative, several tribes already have adopted resolutions and have offered official letters of support for the Bears Ears proposal including the Hopi Nation, All Pueblo Council of Governors, Hualapai Nation, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, as well as the Navajo Nation Council, including six resolutions of support from the Navajo Chapters in Utah.
Our flight started out over the flank of Abajos where a thousand years ago this general area was farmed, and people had built roads from here to Chaco Canyon. This area is threatened by looting and grave robbing, which is still occurring in the area. We flew over the Bears Ears on Elk Ridge which is culturally significant to Native American tribes in the area. We saw Grand Gulch, which is the largest canyon system of Cedar Mesa and the canyon that contains the most archaeological sites. Areas like Grand Gulch, Comb Wash and Valley of the Gods draw visitors from around the world every year. Designation as a national conservation area or national monument would protect the historical and cultural values of the area as well as its contribution to local tourism economies.