Political gamesmanship over the Bears Ears reached its apex this week as Utah congressmen finally introduced their Public Lands Initiative bill while the manager of those lands, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, trekked across the Utah red rock.
For Rep. Rob Bishop, the bill's introduction is culmination of an effort begun more than three years ago and represents thousands of hours of work from diverse interests. If passed, it would settle large and small disputes over public lands from Flaming Gorge to Lake Powell. It would add thousands of wilderness acres, expand one national monument (Dinosaur) and create another in Emery County.
But it wouldn't create a monument in San Juan County, and that is what's behind Jewell's high-profile journey through southeastern Utah. Indian tribes and environmentalists have coalesced around the idea of a national monument in the sacred lands surrounding the Bears Ears that would give Native Americans a unique management role to preserve both the heritage of their past and their traditions still practiced.