1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument created in San Juan County
The Bears Ears National Monument was created by presidential decree on December 28, resulting in a massive new national monument that takes up more than one quarter of the land mass of San Juan County.
The monument designation includes 1,351,849 acres of federal land, but does not include the 109,106 acres of state land and the 12,652 acres of private land that are now within the national monument boundaries.
The lands included in the designation will continue to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service (USFS).
The massive monument includes areas in and around the Bears Ears, two buttes on the Manti La Sal National Forest that are the traditional site of the birthplace of Chief Manuelita, a great Navajo leader who led his people during the difficulties predating the Long Walk.
Another renowned Navajo leader, K’aayelii, was also born in the area. Kigalia, an area just north of the Bears Ears on Elk Ridge, is said to be named after K’aayelii.
See a map of the monument on page 4 of this newspaper.
The monument includes Cedar Mesa, Comb Ridge, Valley of the Gods, and Butler Wash in south central San Juan County.
While portions of the Abajo Mountains were not included in the designation, large portions of the Elk Ridge area, including Dark Canyon, are included. The drainage into South Cottonwood, Tuerto Canyon, Blue Creek and other areas draining west from the Abajo Mountains, are included in the new monument.
Drainages east and south of the Abajos, in addition to several areas draining north of the Abajos, are not included in the new monument. The mountain road between Blanding and Monticello, which runs through the Johnson Creek, Indian Creek and North Creek drainages, is not included in the new monument.
In general, the Canyonlands Basin is also included in the designation, including Indian Creek Canyon, and Beef Basin. The monument boundary in this area generally follows the canyon rims of the Canyonlands Basin, including Lockhart Basin.
The 1.35 million acres of the actual monument is less than the 1.9 million acres sought by a coalition of tribes and environmental groups. Portions of the 1.9 million acre proposal that are not in the new monument include portions of the Abajo Mountains and Mancos Mesa and other areas west of Cedar Mesa.
The monument generally follows the lines of the National Conservation Areas that were part of the proposed Public Lands Initiative (PLI), legislation before Congress, which was sponsored by Congressmen Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop. The PLI legislation did not make it through Congress before the end of the legislative session.