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Archaeology Southwest Opposes Zinke Recommendations on Bears Ears

(June 16, 2017)—Archaeology Southwest joins sovereign tribal nations, local and national conservation organizations, and citizen stakeholders in opposing the recommendations put forth in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s interim report on Bears Ears National Monument (BENM) dated June 10, 2017.

In response to Secretary Zinke’s recommendations, William H. (Bill) Doelle, President & CEO of Archaeology Southwest, issued the following statement:

“Like many other concerned groups, we awaited the public release of Secretary Zinke’s report. After careful review and consideration of the recommendations in the report, we share the following observations.

  • The report lacks substance; there is no evidence of meaningful data collection or thoughtful analysis. In that, it is the opposite of the Obama proclamation that established BENM.
  • The report disrespects the five sovereign tribal nations that advanced the protection of Bears Ears as a sacred traditional landscape. That is the opposite of the Obama proclamation process, which engaged these tribes with genuine and lasting respect.
  • The report merely acknowledges “some objects” of interest within BENM. There is, however, dramatic evidence that this is a cultural landscape of “abundant objects,” as documented in the Obama proclamation. Moreover, the report pointedly fails to acknowledge the distribution and diversity of objects that are protected by BENM.
  • The report implies—without evidence—that BENM is too large. Conversely, profuse evidence from tribes, the public, and the archaeological record indicates that this landscape could be—actually should be—much larger. It could expand to at least the 1.9 million acres proposed by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. The courts have upheld large-scale monument designations in the past.
  • The report calls on the president to take action. Analyses by legal experts and scholars unequivocally conclude that the president cannot act to diminish BENM. The president does have the authority under the Antiquities Act to expand BENM, however. Expanding BENM would reflect well on the president.

“These are our provisional comments on an interim report. As Secretary Zinke prepares a final report, Archaeology Southwest will continue to compile an expanding database of detailed information that supports BENM. Our commitment to celebrating BENM and protecting it from diminishment is undiminished.”

Bears Ears

Bears Ears. Image: RE Burrillo

Archaic Rock Art

One of many rock art panels within Bears Ears National Monument. Image: RE Burrillo

Bears Ears

The Bears Ears cultural landscape includes impressive ancient structures like this one. Image: RE Burrillo

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