Inter-tribal coalition publishes Bears Ears Land Plan
by David Boyle
Members of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition recently published a 101-page Collaborative Land Management Plan for the Bears Ears National Monument.
The document lays out tribal priorities and goals for the comanagement of the monument with federal land agencies, including through the creation of full-time Tribal management staff and the creation of a Traditional Knowledge Institute.
The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (BEITC) is a group of appointed tribal representatives with historic ties to the Bears Ears National Monument area including representation from the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute, Hopi Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, and Zuni Tribe.
The publicly available plan is the result of over two years of work and collaboration between the five coalition tribes and was recently submitted to the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The submission of the land management plan follows a June 18 signing of an agreement between the coalition, the Forest Service, and the BLM.
The agreement formalized the comanagement of the Bears Ears National Monument between the entities.
The agreement states, in part, that the BLM and Forest Service will coordinate and consult with the Bears Ears Tribal Commission “throughout land use planning and subsequent implementation-level decision-making processes concerning Bears Ears including preparation of a monument management plan and a travel management plan.”
In a release, the coalition states their submitted land management plan “represents a new way forward for Tribes to protect their off-reservation ancestral homelands and cultural resources.”
The collaborative land management plan lays out the goals and values shared by the five tribes regarding the management of the Bears Ears National Monument.
The summarized goals include establishing a process for collaborative management of Bears Ears with Federal Land Managers including creating by-laws for equity between the tribes and agencies with equal consideration given for indigenous knowledge with knowledge from processes framed by a Western scientific paradigm.
The goals also include the creation of full-time Tribal management staff, with federal funding for the staff.
Additionally, the goals listed include the establishment and funding of a Traditional Knowledge Institute with programs for Native benefit.
Other goals include continued sharing of data, information, and management planning between the Tribes and Federal land managers.
The coalition release also states, “This plan carries with it the hope to instill larger systemic change so that Tribal communities and Nations can have an authentic role and voice in the management of their ancestral homelands.”
The document lays out an introduction including a recent background of the monument and coalition as well as traditional connections of the tribes to the lands in and around the monument.
The document also outlines the cultural landscape of the monument including the natural environment including viewsheds and soundscapes, air quality, sky, water, wildlife, plant and woodland resources, geologic, paleontologic and archeologic resources.
The collaborative land management plan also cites threats and impacts to the cultural landscape including extractive industries, livestock grazing, recreation and tourism, and climate change.
The plan also outlines environmental philosophy and approach to conservation, as well as knowledge gaps the coalition hopes to fill and a vision for Native engagement and collaborative management.
Among the representatives of the coalition is (Naatsis’áán, Navajo Mountain) resident Hank Stevens. Stevens represents the Navajo Nation on the coalition.
“Our culture relies on accessibility to the Bears Ears region. Through this Land Management Plan, we are strengthening our connection with our people, the environment, and all the land, water, and animals. What we are looking at is reconnecting with our Aboriginal lands and finding ways to incorporate our worldview into the management of our homelands. Having a say in how this region is managed brings us closer to our ancestors.”
The entire Collaborative Land Management Plan can be viewed in full online at BearsEarsCoalition.org.