Opinion

Respecting Our New Bears Ears National Monument

I support President Barack Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears National Monument. I’m in a unique position of wearing a few hats that allow me several perspectives on this historic action: Utah taxpayer, elected official and mother.

As a taxpayer, when I heard some of Utah’s politicians threaten litigation before the monument was even declared, I had to ask — whose interests are they representing? The reality is that the support for Bears Ears is strong, with one poll showing 71 percent of Utahans in support. Under this designation, the winners are those who want to protect traditional tribal uses, conserve the land, stop the looting of irreplaceable artifacts, and maintain recreational access and other existing rights such as grazing.  It seems to me the only interests unserved are those who want to see national public lands transferred to special interests.

I believe the government should follow the will of the people and the rule of law.  As a taxpayer, I ask Utah’s politicians to accept this decision and say NO to spending my and others hard-earned tax dollars on message litigation that will not help a single Utah working family.

Wearing my Utah state senator hat, as a member of the minority party I know what it is to fight hard fights, many times losing.  From that experience, I say that we must respect the process, balance of power, and rule of law that has made our country the best example of a people’s government in history. President Obama and his staff consulted monument opponents and proponents — locally, regionally, and nationally — and their deliberations have been thoughtful and transparent. A quick media search brings overwhelming results showing that the future of Bears Ears has enjoyed a robust and responsible public debate. This action by President Obama happened only after Congress had years to act and failed.

The Obama administration has rightfully consulted with the sovereign nations that comprise the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and has included every organization, special interest group and elected official wanting to provide input.  As someone who cares deeply that constituents are represented well, I say job well done, President Obama. I respectfully accept results favored by my elected colleagues that don’t go my way; now I’m asking the same of those who disagree with the new monument.

Lastly and so importantly, as a mother, I want my kids to always do what they think is right, even in the face of the powerful.

President Obama has recognized and honored this in protecting public lands and historic sites that represent a diverse cross-section of America’s history and uniquely reflect the cultural and spiritual stories that have shaped this country. I want my children to be able to visit places and hear stories that celebrate their heritage as well as those of other citizens. Served by President Obama’s actions, now all of our children can visit the home of the great civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, learn about the history of the Buffalo Soldiers led by Charles Young, the first black man to achieve the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army, visit the Belmont-Paul home in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the history of the women’s rights movement, and now, in our own great state, recognize and honor the traditions of proud native tribes and forefathers.

I am overjoyed that President Obama’s historic action will preserve the culture of the region’s Native American tribes while also ensuring that traditional land uses will continue. I am inspired that my children and grandchildren will be able to explore and know our public land, commune with higher powers, and respect the past of others.

Remember who the constituents really are and respect the Bears Ears National Monument.


Luz Escamilla is a 
Democratic member of the Utah State Senate, representing District 1. She currently serves as assistant minority whip.

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