Earlier today, President Obama declared the Bears Ears region of southeast Utah a National Monument, permanently protecting this incredible region. Access Fund is especially proud to announce that, after hundreds of hours of targeted advocacy work in DC and Utah, this is the first national monument proclamation to specifically acknowledge rock climbing as an appropriate and valued recreation activity.
This is a huge win for the climbing community, as the Bears Ears region is home to a substantial amount of world-class climbing, including internationally renowned Indian Creek, as well as Lockhart Basin, Arch/Texas Canyon, Comb Ridge, Valley of the Gods, and dozens of other developed and yet-to-be-discovered climbing opportunities.
For years, this exceptional landscape has weathered impacts from resource extraction and irresponsible public use, especially the looting of Native American cultural sites. Now, permanently protected as a National Monument, this area will be conserved for future generations to enjoy.
For three years, Access Fund wholeheartedly participated in the political process to protect this region through a more traditional legislative solution (i.e., Utah Public Lands Initiative Act). Unfortunately, Congress did not vote on the Utah Public Lands Initiative before it adjourned on December 8, and thus the President’s National Monument proclamation provided the only realistic path forward for much needed, long-term land protections. We are certain that this was not any easy decision for the President, as there were many well-intentioned stakeholders with opposing positions.
Our advocacy work in southeast Utah also resulted in a burgeoning partnership with the Native American community. After months of collaboration and exploration of common ground with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, it is clear that climbing practices are compatible with Native American traditional values and conservation principles. The Coalition submitted a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell expressing their support of continued climbing access in the region, and the acknowledgement of climbing in a potential National Monument proclamation.
Access Fund supports collaborative management of Bears Ears in a way that honors the traditional and ancestral ties of Native American people to these lands, while also protecting the world-class landscape for all Americans. With rock climbing officially acknowledged in the proclamation, climbers have a seat at the table in the multi-year process to develop a monument management plan. We look forward to working on the management plan for Bears Ears National Monument with regional tribes and all stakeholders.
We applaud and thank President Obama for establishing Bears Ears National Monument. It was the only viable way to permanently protect the invaluable cultural resources and recreational opportunities found throughout the region.