Second online forum held for Bears Ears Monument Draft Plan

by David Boyle
News Director
Federal land agencies and members of the Bears Ears Commission held another online forum related to the Bears Ears National Monument draft plan on May 2.
The meeting was the fourth of seven public meetings held by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service, and the Bears Ears Commission--made up of five tribal nations with historic ties to the monument--to share information about the Bears Ears National Monument Draft Resource Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement in an online forum on May 2.
The 1,200-page draft plan includes five alternatives for the management of the monument, with Alternative E identified as the preferred alternative.
The draft was published on March 8, with a 90-day public comment period open since the time and concluding on June 11.
At an April meeting, agency leaders said that the proposed resource management plan and final impact statement will likely be published in October, with the record of decision to be signed likely in January 2025.
Formal public comments on the draft plan can be submitted online at,
by mail to ATTN: Monument Planning, BLM Monticello Field Office, 365 North Main, Monticello, UT 84535 o
or by filling out a comment card at a public meeting.
The first public question posed at the May 2 meeting regarded the statement in the draft plans that a plan may limit recreation use if scenic values are being damaged
Manti-La Sal District Ranger of the Moab/Monticello District Michael Engelhart explained recreation could be limited in different ways including requiring permits, limiting group sizes, or seasonal closures.
Englehart explained that to determine if recreation or other activities are impacting scenic values, agencies would analyze visual resources in the monument.
“Visual resources they are inventoried through a standardized process that evaluates the broad categories of Line, color, texture and form. That’s also used to evaluate the level of changed visual resources that’s occurring and may be caused by various activities including recreation.”
Another question raised asked about how monument objects can be protected in the age of social media.
BLM Monticello Field Manager Jake Palma says they’ve seen an increase in visitation since the designation of the monument; sharing an average estimation of just under 200,000 annual visitors with today’s average around 500,000 annually. Social media posts are believed to have played a role in increasing visitation to the monument.
Among some of the potential tools identified in the draft plan include directing the majority of visitors to public use sites with interpretation at sites better prepared to receive visitors. Other options include permitting systems which provide education and accountability for visitors, as well as seasonal uses for certain areas.
Navajo Nation representative on the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition Davina Smith also spoke about encouraging visitors to pause and reflect while visiting the monument
“There are some places that respectfully, tribes do not want that to go on social media in forms of protection. That is something that I think is very important, that tribal nations provide resources to help the agencies manage the monument. That is why they propose the tribal cultural rangers who would assist the federal agency staff with interpretation and an explanation of cultural sites and cultural values as well as additional boots on the ground.”
Another question at the meeting was about the role of tribal governments in managing the monument. 
Englehart explained that the presidential proclamation re-establishing the monument includes direction that the commission and federal agencies work together with continued engagement with annual meetings for implementation status of the management plan and meetings quarterly to collaborate on management priorities, resource issues, program development and other items.
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Curtis Yanito said understanding perspectives and increasing respect has already begun as the agencies and the commission have worked together, including the sharing of traditional indigenous knowledge..
“We have a lot of information that we provided. That these things, and those things need to protected. As far as with the Alternative E that we discussed, when our visitors or whoever comes to visit the Bears Ears, they would really understand the value of the traditional ways of respecting nature.”
Another question raised was related to the protection of sacred sites within the monument. Craig Andrews, Vice Chairman of the Hopi Tribe spoke about tribal perspectives of visitation to the area.
“It’s not recreating. It’s actually going back to these areas to see and being there looking at sites and bringing down as prayer feathers. Everything is still living in these areas. We’re not just protecting it, we’re also talking to who occupied those, that was our ancestors. By coming to these places, we’re visiting these areas again; which our ancestors are still there. They’re still there in all aspects.”
Agencies also answered questions regarding camping in the monument. Englehart explained existing campgrounds would continue to be managed under all alternatives, with the possibility of creating new developed campgrounds in some areas in the future as well as the continuation of dispersed camping.
Questions were also addressed related to wildlife protection and other items.
In addition to online forums held on April 16 and May 2, the BLM, Forest Service and Bears Ears Commission held a public meeting in Blanding on April 23.
Other meetings have been held in Salt Lake City, Utah, Twin Arrows, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The final public meeting is planned to be at Monument Valley High on May 16 from 6 to 8 pm.
Public comments on the plan will be accepted through June 11.

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