This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As a Utah resident of more than 50 years, I am deeply troubled by President Trump's recent decision, at the request of Utah's congressional leaders, to explore rescinding or shrinking the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.
It is no secret that at times I have disagreed with Utah's congressional delegation. Yet, we are all citizens of Utah and share a respect for Utah's rich culture and history. I believe we all agree it is important to hold onto our Mormon roots, and our ranching culture. But we must also recognize and honor our state's Native American Tribes. After all, they were here first.
Designation of Bears Ears National Monument on Dec. 28, 2016, was the direct result of seven years of hard work by grassroots Native Americans and sovereign tribal nations who inspired thousands of Utahns to embrace their vision. Native people came together to make their voices heard in the public land-use debate after watching ancestral artifacts being stolen and sacred sites desecrated for more than a century. Five Tribes including the Navajo Nation, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute and the Ute Tribe of the Uintah Ouray Reservation united in a historic union and directly called on the federal government to honor tribal sovereignty through co-management of this protected area.
Surveys show the majority of Utahns agree these special places deserve protection. But there is no disputing the fact that some disagree. A major point of contention was the use of the Antiquities Act to protect this landscape, an act that many believe is prone to government overreach.
Yet the Antiquities Act has been used routinely to protect our nation's most treasured landscapes. Four of Utah's "Mighty Five" national parks were initially designated as monuments and are now touted and revered by all Utah leaders.
The public outreach process for designation of Bears Ears National Monument was thorough and transparent. All parties had numerous opportunities to be heard by federal decision-makers who listened carefully and weighed all stakeholder interests.
Yet Utah leadership failed to bring the congressional process across the finish line. Now Utah's political representatives in D.C. are calling foul.
As we welcome Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to our home state this week, I urge him to meet with and listen to tribes and local Native Americans who wrote and petitioned to create the Bears Ears National Monument.
What Zinke will find when he visits Bears Ears is this: an unprecedented coalition of sovereign tribal nations who unanimously support the monument; a mobilized majority of Utahns standing strong in support of native voices; and an intact, iconic American landscape that contains tens of thousands of world-class indigenous sacred sites and artifacts. I believe Bears Ears National Monument will prove itself to be one of the most deserving Antiquities Act designations in our nation's history.
No further action is necessary by Secretary Zinke, except to step back and allow our state's most experienced land stewards to teach us what they know about our shared home.
Please, Secretary Zinke, do not take Bears Ears National Monument away from tribes, and all Utahns who are ready to work together toward creating a stronger future.
Robert Redford is an actor, director, producer and a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council.