Uproar over appointment of initial Bears Ears NM Advisory Committee
May 01, 2019 | 2575 views | 0 0 comments | 707 707 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An uproar erupted in the past week after names were released for the initial Bears Ears National Monument Advisory Committee.

Utah Diné Bikéyah, an advocacy group that fought for the original 1.35 million acre national monument, expressed concern that the committee is dominated by local residents who opposed the original monument.

The statement by Utah Diné Bikéyah is available below.

The committee, according to the federal land agencies, is designed to “work together to provide their unique perspectives and inform the Monument planning efforts and, as appropriate, the management of the Monument.”

The Department of the Interior said that the names of 58 people were submitted to serve on the committee.  The committee includes 15 members.

The nominations were reviewed by representatives of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service, and Department of the Interior.

In the end, the appointments were made by the Department of the Interior.

A news release from the Department of the Interior stated, “The individuals appointed to the Bears Ears National Monument Advisory Committee reflect a wide variety of expertise, experiences, and interests regarding public land management and the resources within the Bears Ears National Monument (BENM).

“The appointed advisory committee members will work together to provide their unique perspectives and inform the Monument planning efforts and, as appropriate, the management of the Monument.”

The proclamation creating the monument required that the BLM and Forest Service establish an advisory committee. 

The goal, according to the agencies, “is to ensure a fair and balanced representation of interested stakeholders, including State and local governments, tribes, recreational users, local business owners, and private landowners.

In addition to the advisory committee, the proclamation also created the Bears Ears Commission (renamed the Shash Jaa Commission when the boundaries were changed).

The Shash Jaa Commission was initially to include a representative of each of the five tribes involved in the Bear Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.  After the boundary change, the San Juan County Commissioner representing District Three (currently Kenneth Maryboy) was also added to the Commission.

However, according to the BLM, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition indicated that they would prefer to work with the agencies through direct government-to-government consultation. 

In addition, the tribes that were to be represented on the Shash Jaa Commission also have been invited to participate in the development of the monument management plans as cooperating agencies.

“The BLM is engaging with tribes through Government-to-Government consultation, seeking input from the Bears Ears National Monument Advisory Committee, and has provided the public with a number of opportunities to provide input on the BENM monument management plans,” said a BLM spokesman.

“The BLM will continue to closely engage with the Shash Jaa Commission and interested Tribes in recognition of the importance of Tribal participation in the care and management of the objects within the monument, and to ensure that management decisions affecting the monument reflect and are informed by Tribal expertise and traditional and historical knowledge.”

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

Dear Editor:

Utah Diné Bikéyah and the grassroots communities it serves are disappointed by the Department of Interior’s selection of appointees to the Bears Ears National Monument Advisory Committee. Most of the 15 appointments made by the Bureau of Land Management oppose the 1.35-million-acre designation of Bears Ears National Monument, and not a single early proponent of the monument made the cut, despite the Bears Ears proclamation stating that this Advisory Committee “shall consist of a fair and balanced representation of interested stakeholders.”

This week, the Bureau of Land Management announced its appointees. The appointees do not include any persons recommended by Tribes, and the racial composition of the Advisory Committee does not reflect the Native American majority in San Juan County. According to the BLM website, BLM “seeks out and values diverse input from citizens who care about the stewardship of America’s public lands,” with this management Advisory Committee, and the Obama Bears Ears proclamation states that this Committee “shall consist of a fair and balanced representation of interested stakeholders.”

“The BLM does not seem interested in implementing the Native American foundation of the Bears Ears National Monument,” said Davis Filfred, board chairman for Utah Diné Bikéyah. “This Advisory Committee lacks Native wisdom, lacks support from sovereign Tribes, and fails to reflect the local community that most depends on protection of these lands.”

Bears Ears National Monument was created by and is built upon the grassroots knowledge of the Hopi, Zuni, Pueblo, Diné and Ute peoples. These appointments fail to recognize tribal sovereignty of the Indigenous peoples of the Bears Ears region, and, most importantly, the opportunity for Tribes of the Bears Ears region to offer their expertise on how to manage Ancestral lands.

“The majority of San Juan County supports Bears Ears, but no proponents made the cut to serve on this committee. Why disenfranchise local Native Americans and silence our most experienced stewards of Utah’s public lands? The BLM should dismantle this committee and start over,” added UDB Executive Director Gavin Noyes.

In October 2018, Rupert Steele, chairman for the Confedered Tribes of the Goshute Nation, issued a letter of support that nominated seven qualified Native Americans to this advisory committee. They are:

• Willie Grayeyes – San Juan County Commissioner representing county interests

• Malcolm Lehi – Ute Mountain Ute member, grazing permittee and land owner

• Honor Keeler – Cherokee legal scholar with expertise in public lands and repatriation

• Kevin Madalena – from the Pueblo of Jemez with paleontological expertise

• Jonah Yellowman – cultural, spiritual healer from Halgato Wash, Utah nominated the committee’s dispersed recreational activities

• Davina Smith – nominated for public at large from Oljato Chapter.

• Tara Benally – nominated for public at large from Mexican Water Chapter.

“The following nominations are exemplary candidates to serve on the Bears Ears National Monument Advisory Committee, as they are important people within our Native communities, who possess expertise and specialized skills and direct ties to Bears Ears National Monument,” said Steele about these candidates, none of whom were appointed to the committee.

Utah Diné Bikéyah

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