By Matthew Anderson

Last week Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited Utah, hearing from all sides of the Bears Ears debate – meeting with the intertribal coalition, local Native American tribes, environmentalists, San Juan County residents and elected officials.

With him now back at our nation’s capital, the official public comment period is now open. The Department of the Interior is asking all Americans to submit public comments on the Bears Ears National Monument before May 26. Your comments will help Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration determine whether to rescind the monument.

While all Americans’ voices are important, we would encourage you to stand with the locals. No one’s lives, culture, and future depend more on this decision than the residents of San Juan County.

Before Secretary Zinke’s visit to Utah he said that the federal government is not only charged with being a good steward of America’s public lands but also with being a good neighbor. These words weren’t just lip service; his actions last week signaled to us that he understands the importance of local input in these critical decisions.

For example, despite his busy schedule, Secretary Zinke stopped his motorcade when he saw a group of 300 locals gathered at Centennial Park in Blanding. For half an hour he mingled with local tribe members, ranchers, schoolteachers, pioneer descendants, and people from all walks of life. It was amazing to see a community come together in such unity. The crowd took pictures and shed tears. They were thrilled that the federal government was finally listening to their concerns.

While the Bears Ears issue is yet to be settled, the possibility of a rescinded monument has given hope back to San Juan County.

We ask that you make your voice heard. Stand with the locals. Click the link below to submit your official comments.

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Matt Anderson is director of Sutherland Institute’s Coalition for Self-Government in the West. He has been featured in local, national and international media, including BBC, NPR, C-SPAN, Buzzfeed, the Washington Examiner and a variety of Associated Press articles. Matt is a regular contributor to The Hill and Deseret News.

Matt graduated from Utah State University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and is pursuing a master’s of political science with an emphasis in public lands policy. He is an active member of his community – volunteering on political campaigns, serving as a state delegate and precinct chair – and he is involved with a number of conservation organizations. When Matt isn’t working on public policy, you are likely to find him in Utah’s Bear River Mountain Range fly-fishing, hunting or ATV riding.

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