Opinion

Bears Ears Monument Will Protect Our Heritage, Boost Economic Growth

The Conservation for Economic Growth Coalition — which we lead — has argued consistently that the protection of national public lands is important to the health and growth of entrepreneurial, innovative companies across America. Our employees work hard, and they play hard, and spectacular landscapes provide the inspiration which the best and brightest of our employees value so much when they take time off to recharge. Access to these lands helps us recruit and keep the people we need to grow our companies, and increasingly, those employees come from a diverse set of communities — minority ethnic groups, women in technology, and LGBT Americans.

The president has an opportunity now to protect one of the most spectacular landscapes in the American West, and do it in a way that elevates the role of Native American tribes in the management of our public lands. We could not support more strongly the designation of the Bears Ears in Utah as a national monument.

The Bears Ears are two prominent buttes that rise high above Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah. They are surrounded by a living cultural landscape of mountain peaks, verdant high plateaus and roughhewn canyon country that is home to cliff dwellings, prehistoric villages, graves and rock art panels of ancestral Puebloan peoples, as well as Ice Age hunting camps. Located just south and east of Canyonlands National Park, this landscape is significant to all Americans and indispensable to tribal peoples of the Colorado Plateau who continue to rely on these sacred lands as a place of subsistence, spirituality, healing and contemplation.

Led by the Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray, and Navajo, and supported by more than 25 tribes across the Southwest, the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition is urging the president to designate these 1.9 million acres of public lands as a national monument, and their proposal acknowledges that tribes — with all Americans — have a responsibility to preserve this world treasure.

Designation of the Bears Ears as a national monument would protect these sacred lands from: the looting of cultural treasures and sites; oil and gas development; the mining of potash, uranium, and tar sands; and irresponsible off-road vehicle use that can permanently damage the land.

But the Bears Ears region isn’t just celebrated for its cultural resources; it also has a wealth of recreational opportunities, so important to our entrepreneurial culture. When protecting Bears Ears, we will also protect the access to great hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, river running, climbing, and responsible off-road vehicle use. Activities such as backpacking into archaeological sites, mountain biking on Hatch Point and climbing in Indian Creek will continue, but with better management, enhancing the recreation experience while protecting the region’s monumental resources.

With the addition of the Bear Ears National Monument, it is hard to imagine anywhere else in the world that could match the spectacular landscapes that would be available to innovative companies and their employees in the American West. At the same time, it would protect lands which are truly sacred to one of our honored minority communities. The president faces an extraordinary opportunity to preserve beautiful landscapes for our posterity, protect lands important to the identity of our Native American tribes, and support the health and growth of our innovative companies — all in one act. We urge him to do precisely that.

Nancy Pfund and Tom Baruch are co-chairs of the Conservation for Economic Growth Coalition, an advocacy group made up of founders of fast-growing entrepreneurial companies and venture capitalists.

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