Tribal leaders and federal authorities reestablish the Bears Ears Commission

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Federal officials and tribal nations have formally reinstated a commission to oversee land management decisions at a Utah national monument — one of the first such joint governance agreements signed by Native Americans and U.S. officials.

Agency executives including the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service met with officials from five tribal nations on Saturday to sign a document formalizing the Bears Ears Commission, a governing body dealing with daily decisions on the 2,125 square miles (5,500 square kilometers) Bears Ears National Monument.

In 2021, President Joe Biden restored two sprawling national monuments in southern Utah — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante — reversing a decision by President Donald Trump to reserve hundreds of thousands of acres of rugged land sacred to Native Americans for mining and mining other developments opened home to ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.

Collectively, the memorials cover an area nearly the size of Connecticut and were created by democratic governments under a centuries-old law that allows presidents to protect sites deemed historically, geographically, or culturally important.

Tribes have long sought a greater role in their oversight.

“This is an important step in moving forward together to ensure tribal expertise and traditional perspectives remain at the forefront in our collective decision-making for Bears Ears National Monument. This type of true co-management will serve as a model for our work to honor nation-to-nation relationships going forward,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, director of the Bureau of Land Management, one of the signatories to the agreement.

The joint governance plan of the Bears Ears Commission and the Obama-era was changed, much to the chagrin of tribal officials, when Trump downsized the memorial in 2017. The five nations, all expelled from the land contained in the monument, are the Hopi, the Navajo Nation, the Pueblo of Zuni, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.

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