11/29/2022

NEW: Access Fund to Intervene in Utah Bears Ears Lawsuit

If Approved, Move Will Give Climbers a Voice in Legal Proceeding

Following the lead of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the Pueblo of Zuni, Access Fund filed a motion to intervene in a state of Utah lawsuit that attacks President Biden’s decision to restore Bears Ears National Monument. Bears Ears is a sacred landscape to Native American Tribes and home to world class rock climbing visited by climbers from around the world.

“Climbers overwhelmingly support protections for Bears Ears,” says Access Fund Executive Director Chris Winter. “We’re proud to follow the Tribes’ lead as we take this next step in the fight to protect this incredible landscape.”

Climbers rally for Bears Ears at the Utah State Capitol. Ancestral lands of Newe Sogobia (Eastern Shoshone), Goshute, and Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute). © Access Fund.

The state of Utah filed its lawsuit in August. The Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the Pueblo of Zuni filed a motion to intervene in the case on November 18, and conservation organizations followed shortly after. A judge will need to approve the motion to intervene before these parties gain official standing in the lawsuit.

“Access Fund represents more than 8 million climbers nationwide, and we’re ready to bring that representation all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if that’s what it takes to protect Bears Ears,” says Winter.

President Obama protected Bears Ears as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act in 2016 at the request of Native American Tribes who have cared for this landscape since time immemorial. Access Fund led the climbing community in its vocal support for permanent protection of Bears Ears.

Access Fund is no stranger to legal action in support of Bears Ears. Along with its partners, the organization filed a lawsuit just days after former President Trump’s December 2017 executive order to reduce the monument, arguing that the President’s order violated both the Antiquities Act and the United States Constitution. As a result of former President Trump’s 2017 executive order, a vast majority of Bears Ears lost landscape-level protections, and approximately 40% of the climbing areas in the original Bears Ears National Monument lost national monument status—including Valley of the Gods, Harts Draw, Lockhart Basin, and a portion of the climbing at Indian Creek.

In October of 2021, President Biden restored Bears Ears National Monument. Access Fund joined the historic White House celebration on behalf of the climbing community. Beyond just celebrating, Access Fund’s Climber Steward program—founded in 2021—works hard to educate climbers on low-impact practices and responsible recreation. And the organization has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in building sustainable trails and recreational infrastructure that protect natural and cultural resources.