|Bears Ears National Monument, Utah. (Photo: Tim Peterson)|
In a move welcomed by Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and many other archaeological, historical, and tribal organizations, Bears Ears National Monument—home to one of the most significant cultural landscapes in the United States—is finally a reality.
"(This action) will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes," said President Barack Obama in a statement last December.
The rugged 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears area of southeast Utah includes more than 100,000 cultural and archaeological sites representing some 12,000 years of human habitation, including Ice Age hunting camps, cliff dwellings, prehistoric villages, and petroglyph and pictograph panels.
"It’s time to recognize the Bears Ears area for the national treasure that it is," said Bill Lipe, Ph.D., a Crow Canyon Archaeological Center trustee who has been doing archaeological research in the Bears Ears region for half a century. "Its many thousands of wonderfully preserved archaeological sites and rock art panels are set in a spectacular and awe-inspiring landscape.”
But despite Bears Ears' remote setting in the high desert of the Colorado Plateau, it was in constant peril from illegal artifact looting, inappropriate recreational use, and energy development. In November, Crow Canyon—along with other archaeological and historical preservation groups—signed a letter calling for the immediate establishment of Bears Ears National Monument by the White House under the Antiquities Act, which will provide the funding and legal protections required to preserve the spectacular landscape and its archaeological sites for future generations.
"These irreplaceable treasures were threatened with destruction, but the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument ensures their protection for all Americans and for people from throughout the world in perpetuity," said Mark Varien, Ph.D., executive vice-president of the Research Institute at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.
"We fully agree with friends that these lands need protection for their breath-taking beauty and the wealth of knowledge they give us as windows into the past," said Crow Canyon Trustee and former Cochiti Pueblo Governor Joseph Suina, Ph.D. "We, the Pueblo people, see this as the protection of one our most fundamental rights: our freedom of religion. These sacred lands are still occupied by our ancestral spirits. They are our chapels and churches no matter where they are located. In prayer, we petition ancestors who gave us our culture and our languages to give us enlightenment, inspiration, and courage to continue with traditions in our journey here on Earth. We are indeed thankful for their protection."
Crow Canyon’s upcoming Cultural Explorations guided hiking trip through the backcountry of Bears Ears National Monument is sold out, but there is still room on the waiting list. For more information about this and Crow Canyon’s other Cultural Explorations trips, go to https://www.crowcanyon.org/index.php/travel-with-us/travel-in-the-u-s