National Geographic featured San Juan County in their November issue within a feature article, “Inside the new battle for the American West.” The article was written by Hannah Nordhaus, a University of Colorado alumnus.
The article is split into thirds. The first portion deals with Bears Ears and San Juan County, talking at length about the designation and shrinking of the national monument over the past two years and the legal fallout that has followed the redesignation.
The second portion of the article discusses the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Both places are framed within the article as the center of a massive public lands debate that is shaping the West.
In the third segment of the article, Nordhaus explores the unique challenges facing the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon. Nordhaus explores all three of the controversial monuments, analyzing how the people and land interact and shape those areas.
“It’s live! A year and a half of talking, reporting, traveling, marching, hiking, biking, horse-riding, writing, editing, agonizing, fact-checking, more editing, more agonizing, more fact-checking,” Nordhaus wrote on her author page on Facebook. “Honored to have the opportunity to write this story and I hope I did it justice.”
The author and National Geographic journalist starts off with San Juan County and the Bears Ears struggle, focusing in large part on the importance native residents place on many archeological sites and how the controversy has created unity as well as division.
“Americans are engaged in bitter disputes over public lands,” Nordhaus writes. “Nowhere has the battle been fiercer than around national monuments, particularly Bears Ears, which then President Barack Obama created in December 2016.”
Moab is often mentioned as an unwanted nonstop tourist carnival within the article. Nordhaus says communities such as Blanding and Monticello fear turning into the “monster” of tourism that their northern neighbor became.
The article also unearths the 2009 federal raid in Blanding and arrests that included a beloved doctor who committed suicide the day after the raid.
Both Willie Grayeyes and Kenneth Maryboy are pictured in the National Geographic article and are referred to as activists, with no mention of their candidacy in the county commission races that will be decided by the time this article comes out.
Nordhaus said one thing that didn’t make the article was the full day she spent with Grayeyes, and it was a memorable experience for her.
“National Geographic came to me to write the story because my family is from New Mexico, and they have deep roots in the west there, and I’ve written lots from that experience,” Nordhaus said. “San Juan County was entirely new to me, and I just want to go back and spend months and months exploring.
“There’s just so much there. So much terrain and history and so much. I only scratched the surface, and I wish I could have spent a lot more time there.”
KUED has also created a documentary on the Bears Ears struggle entitled ‘The Battle Over Bears Ears,’ going as far as to say the debate will shape the future of public lands in the United States.
“Bears Ears has become a flashpoint that could determine the future of America’s public lands. KUED explores the many sides of the contentious issue in a new documentary, ‘Battle Over Bears Ears,’ produced by Nancy Green and Dana Barraco,” a recent press release stated.
The film premieres Monday, Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. on KUED. It repeats Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 10 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 18 at 3 p.m.
The documentary will be aired at the Hideout Community Center in Monticello on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. It is free for any community member to attend.
The Monticello airing is to give area residents an opportunity to see the film before it premieres live the following week.