The group came together soon after the July 16 public hearing in Bluff hosted by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. The meeting was attended by nearly two thousand people, including busloads of people from outside of the area who arrived in support of the monument.
“We were appalled by the outsiders who may have given Secretary Jewell the mistaken impression that there is widespread support for the monument by local residents,” said one organizer. “We vowed to make sure that the local voices are heard.”
Approximately one dozen local area residents, about half of whom are Native Americans, have pulled together an impressive effort. The dozen core members have grown to more than 2,000 supporters.
The group has asked that their names not be published in this article. Since they act like a swarm of bees, loosely affiliated in a passionate cause, we will refer to them as worker bees.
The group used local celebrations, including the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day, to gather support. More than 1,000 local residents showed up for a July 27 hearing hosted by Senator Mike Lee and including Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Congressman Rob Bishop.
The effort has made use of social media to gather support. Efforts include the creation of a Facebook group, the development of a website, the placement of petitions opposing the monument, and the use of Twitter. In addition, signs, posters and marketing materials have been developed.
Scores of letters to the Editor have been sent to surrounding newspapers, particularly to newspapers which have come out in support of the monument. In addition, reporters have been approached to better inform their writings. Even a few editorial cartoons have been sent.
When articles on the proposed monument show up on social media, there are scores of comments from the local residents.
“This has been wonderful,” said one worker bee. “Social media is saving rural America. This expands our voice to people beyond the area.”
The efforts may be helping to reshape the debate.
A case in point is Utah Senator Jim Dabakis. The Salt Lake City Democrat, who has taken a lead in supporting the monument, ran into a buzz saw in the past week when he made a flippant and condescending remark on Facebook.
Scores of local residents responded with dozens of posts to his Facebook account. Eventually, most of the comments were deleted.
“I’m not sure if Senator Dabakis will ever be our friend,” said one of the worker bees. “But at least he now knows there is serious, passionate, and intelligent opposition to this disastrous proposal.”
A petition on Whitehouse.gov has garnered more than 14,000 signatures in just a few days. Supporters urge local residents to visit the Whitehouse.gov website and sign the petition before it expires on August 14.
“Make sure you look for a confirmation e-mail to your signature,” said one of the organizers.
The swarm of worker bees also descended on Twitter, to the point that Bears Ears was a trending topic on July 27, the day Senator Mike Lee held his hearing in Blanding.
Glenn Beck made the proposal the focus of approximately one-half hour of his daily program, which has millions of followers.
Work is continuing on the new website SaveBearsEars.com. The website features information on the proposal, beautiful photography, and testimonials by area residents against the monument.
Several weeks ago, one letter to the Editor of the San Juan Record was incredulous that there could be opposition to the monument proposal from local Native Americans.
It is fair to say that those who follow the issue now clearly understand that there is significant local opposition to the proposed monument, from the Anglo and from the Native American populations.
It is a daunting task after it was announced last week that organizations supporting the creation of the monument have received more than $20 million in donations. However, despite the long odds, this local group has made impressive progress on helping people understand the opposition to the monument from residents in San Juan County.