There are places in Utah so rich in heritage and stunning scenery that people consider them some of the most beautiful places on earth. People travel from near and far to view spectacular red rock scenery from Canyonlands and Arches down to the Four Corners. This native Westerner, small-business owner and family man is not an expert on Utah politics, but I do know that there are lands in the state that compare to no other and deserve protection. Bears Ears is such a place, and we have a chance to ensure cultural and historic lands, and recreational and spiritual opportunities are protected for generations to come.
I have lived in the West all of my life, and I’ve spent a lot of time traveling the back roads, anxious for their end and what lies beyond. These experiences have been some of the most meaningful experiences of my life — hiking, backpacking, boating, rafting, camping and exploring. To be honest, the greatest thrill, though, is just being on our public lands in Utah. Hanging out by the camp fire, gazing at the thousands of stars while the moon rises over a huge canyon wall — the simple pleasures in a land that contains hundreds of multilayered canyons, majestic mountains and azure blue skies. Here, time is measured in millions of years. There is an overwhelming wonder and silence here — the kind that makes you realize that we are all insignificant compared to what nature has achieved.
Among the silence is also a voice of those who came before us: the voice of ancient people. These were determined people who could build their homes hanging high off a canyon wall, walk for miles every day in the blistering heat of summer and conserve enough resources to survive the brutally cold winters. Many of the canyons are filled with reminders of their presence: ruins, pictographs, cliff houses, pottery and even echoes of their ancient wisdom. This vast landscape was their home and they had a special culture of their own that coexisted with nature, and they respected it. It remains a sacred place for them today. And it is to me, too, though I recognize not to the same original, generational depth. As Americans, we should show that same respect for these lands — lands that will continue to draw people to experience their amazement. We need ancient wisdom and natural wonders to bring us back into balance, and remind us in the digital age that we can’t allow greed to continue wreaking havoc on this planet.
Protecting Bears Ears can help do that. 1.9 million acres of beautiful red rock canyons, striking mountain ranges, expansive plateaus, ancient ruins and so much more should be protected. I am inspired by the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition’s vision for this place — for protection, for collaborative management, for traditional knowledge, for commitment to the public good, for healing. While tribes have pushed forward the idea of protecting these sacred lands, there is strength in numbers and the numbers of those supporting the coalition’s proposal continue to grow.
Rep. Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative could go before Congress, but his proposal would not provide adequate protection for Bears Ears. In absence of a strong bill to do just that, we must come together as a community of supporters for these public lands, to ensure they are not developed, destroyed, looted or lined with drilling pads.
People don’t come from around the world, or even from neighboring states, to visit lands that have lost their historic, scenic, ecological and divine values. We come here to experience the peace and beauty of this magnificent area. We come here to hike and camp and explore places such as Mule Canyon, Grand Gulch, Cedar Mesa, Dark Canyon, Comb Wash, Owl Canyon, Elk Ridge, Recapture Wash, and to raft the Colorado, climb canyon walls and bike the endless trails.
These lands should be protected as they were, as they are, and as they should remain. Bears Ears deserves national monument status for all of us — including those who came before us and have left their sacred mark in this region, and, especially, for future generations.