The planning process for the two units of Bears Ears National Monument is moving ahead with the release of a draft Monument Management Plan (MMP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The agency is initiating a 90-day comment period for the documents, which outline options for the Indian Creek and Shash Jáa Units of Bears Ears National Monument.
The draft documents are available for review on the BLM ePlanning website at https:goo.gl/uLrEae. Comments will be accepted through November 15, 2018.
The monument was created by President Barack Obama in December, 2016. One year later, in December, 2017, President Donald Trump created two units of the monument while reducing the overall size by 85 percent.
Visitation to the monument area has exploded since the high-profile announcements were made, even though there is still no management plan approved for the area.
A number of new positions have been announced for the monument, even though a monument manager has still not been named.
The Utah Tribal Leaders Association, which includes representation from the eight tribes in Utah, announced opposition to the entire planning process. A resolution by the group asks the BLM and Forest Service to halt the planning process altogether, due to the lawsuits that challenge the reduction in the monument.
“I am glad all the Utah Tribal Leaders are on board with this resolution, which opposes the expedited and illegal planning process for the Indian Creek and Shash Jáa Units of Bears Ears National Monument,” said Davis Filfred, who chairs the Utah Tribal Leaders Association and serves as the Diné representative on the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.
More than 30 tribal organizations were invited to participate in the planning process as cooperating agencies. None of them accepted the offer.
Cooperating agencies involved in the planning process include San Juan County, Monticello and Blanding cities, the State of Utah, School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), the State of Utah and federal agencies, including the National Park Service, Forest Service, and BLM.
The planning process is moving ahead despite the concerns of the Tribal Leaders Association.
“We recognize that local communities and the public at large care deeply about the future of Bears Ears National Monument. We invite the public to review and comment on the proposed plans, and to consider how they would like to see this remarkable landscape managed now and for future generations,” said Utah BLM Director Ed Roberson.
On January 16, 2018, the BLM initiated planning to prepare MMPs for the Bears Ears National Monument Indian Creek Unit, and for the Shash Jáa Unit, which is co-managed with the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
As part of that action, the BLM also announced that it would prepare an associated EIS. Since then, the BLM and the USFS have worked with cooperating agencies to develop draft management plans and a draft EIS reflecting input from many stakeholders and the public.
The plans include a range of alternatives addressing management issues brought forward during scoping.
“We’ve been on the ground working with and listening to local communities, stakeholders, and the public,” said BLM Canyon Country District Manager Lance Porter, “and we have identified a variety of options to meet the challenges of providing quality recreation experiences for visitors, facilitating uses like grazing or gathering firewood, and protecting the natural and cultural resources that we are entrusted to manage.”
The four alternatives range from minimal change in management to an approach providing maximum management flexibility while protecting Monument objects and resource values.
The BLM encourages comments on all alternatives and potential management actions, as the final management plans may include portions of any alternative.
To help the BLM properly consider and incorporate feedback, please include a reference to a specific page or section for your comment. Comments may be submitted the following ways:
Mail: BLM, Canyon Country District Office, 82 East Dogwood, Moab, Utah 84532, Attention: Lance Porter
Please include your name and street address. Your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time. You can request your personal identifying information be withheld from public review, but the BLM cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so.
The BLM will announce future meetings or other public involvement activities at least 15 days in advance through public notices, media releases, and/or mailed notifications.
For further information concerning the land use planning process, please contact Lance Porter, District Manager at 435-259-2100.