By Matthew Anderson

Last week investigative journalism conducted by the Deseret News confirmed reports of behind-the-scene, coordinated efforts between environmental groups, out-of-state tribal leaders, and big money from California to bring about a 1.9-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument. While this is big news for many across the country, it comes as no surprise to the people of San Juan County.

Time and again locals have expressed their opinion that the push for a monument seemed rotten from the start – it was not something they initiated. Why would San Juan County residents, who have successfully taken care of the land for centuries, suddenly decide that they can no longer protect the area? These people know how to live in harmony with the land – respecting archaeological sites, conserving wildlife, and preserving the grandeur of the landscape. They understand that a monument designation would diminish their stewardship over the area, turning it over to bureaucrats and special interests headquartered thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.

Advocates also claim that locals seek a designation because of the economic prosperity it would bring. San Juan County residents know better. Major parts of one national park, three national monuments, and a national recreation area already exist in San Juan County. But even with these “protected” lands, the county has the lowest income per person and lowest median family income in the state. It also ranks among the most economically depressed in the entire country. Locals have seen firsthand that locking up multiple-use lands has prevented prosperity, and they expect to suffer even more under the burden of yet another national monument. They understand that a strong economy is a diverse one – relying on a host of activities to drive it – and that a national monument like the Bears Ears will reduce their economic diversity and deepen their financial woes by forcing them to be more dependent on tourism.

Another misconception is the assertion that San Juan County residents have been an integral part of the process. Monument advocates have used tens of millions of dollars and a coordinated media campaign to paint a picture of local involvement. Reality stands in stark contrast to this. Not only have locals been left out of conversations between the federal government and monument supporters, but efforts have been made to drown out local voices during the limited opportunities that residents had to give input.

Outside influence and deception have come to define the campaign to designate the Bears Ears region as a national monument. Special interests have co-opted the process to use federal power as a means of securing their agenda, despite local opposition. Please stand with the residents of San Juan County by signing this petition and saying no to deception and special interest politics.


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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