The first meeting was held at San Juan High School on March 26 and the second was March 27 at the Bluff Community Center.
Approximately 245 people attended the meeting in Blanding. The meeting in Bluff was held after the press deadline.
The meeting was designed to provide information and receive feedback from the public about a number of land management issues on the new national monument. Areas of emphasis include cultural resources, National Conservation Lands, travel management, grazing, woodlands, mineral extraction, and recreation.
Agency employees were posted at about a dozen sites in the high school gym to discuss each issue.
The goal is to collect input from the public regarding issues of importance in the monument.
A public comment period is open through April 11. Comments were accepted at the meetings and can be submitted online at https://goo.gl/uLrEae, emailed to BLM_UT_Monticello_monuments@blm.gov, or mailed to PO Box 7, Monticello, UT 84535.
A BLM spokesman said of the meetings, “The BLM welcomes diverse views and appreciates everyone who took the time to attend. Public comments are essential to developing well-reasoned and sound monument management plans.”
The local meetings are the only public meetings scheduled for the Bears Ears management plan. Two additional meetings, in Kanab and Escalante, will received comment on the new management plan for the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
There are two units in the new national monument, including the Shash Jaa and Indian Creek units. In total, there are just more than 200,000 acres of public land in the monument, including 32,587 acres of U.S. Forest Service land and 169,289 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The national monument was designated in December, 2016 by President Barack Obama. It initially included 1.35 million acres of public land.
In December, 2017, President Donald Trump reduced the monument by approximately 85 percent.
These are the first public planning meetings for the new monument. There is no management infrastructure for the monument a full 15 months after it was created.
Officials explained that no additional budgetary funds have been set aside for the monument, which is being managed largely through the Monticello Field Office of the BLM.
The initial designation received extensive support from environmental groups and an Inter-Tribal coalition of five Native American tribes. They opposed the monument changes and supported the lawsuits that were filed after the reduction.
A representative of the Inter-Tribal Coalition attended the meeting and mentioned that the group has not yet determined if it will participate in development of the management plan.
The initial designation gave the Bears Ears Coalition significant management responsibility for the monument.
A representative of The Friends of Cedar Mesa, an advocacy group based in Bluff, said the group planned to provide input and participate in the planning process.
Utah Diné Bikéyah encouraged the public to submit comments “to halt and slow down” the planning effort.
The group said, “It is disrespectful to the judicial branch of government and a waste of tax payer dollars to proceed prior to the ongoing litigation being settled by the courts.”