Facebook Twitter

Groups launch million-dollar campaign to protect Bears Ears artifacts

Effort jumpstarted with $300,000 from international organization

SHARE Groups launch million-dollar campaign to protect Bears Ears artifacts

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and other hike to an overlook in the Butler Wash area of the Bears Ears National Monument to view ancient ruins on Monday, May 8, 2017.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Friends of Cedar Mountain has teamed up with a worldwide monument organization to begin a $1 million initiative to protect at-risk cultural resources in the Bears Ears monument region from harmful human disturbances.

The World Monument Fund has contributed $300,000 to start the four-year effort, which will play out in collaboration with federal and state land managers in the region.

“Bears Ears is a globally important cultural resource,” said Bénédicte de Montlaur, president and chief executive officer of World Monuments Fund.

“That’s why we included Bears Ears on the 2020 World Monuments Watch alongside renowned sites such as the Notre-Dame de Paris, Sacred Valley of the Incas, and Easter Island. We’re excited to partner with Friends of Cedar Mesa on these tangible preservation efforts that will protect cultural sites sacred to numerous Native Nations,” he said.

Josh Ewing, executive director of Friends of Cedar Mesa, said the intense attention the region received when the controversial monument was created and then subsequently reduced in size by the Trump administration fostered a flood of new visitors — and impacts to the resources.

Damage by well-intentioned visitors is compounded by continuing impacts from cattle and off-road vehicles as well as vandalism and looting, Ewing said.

“Regardless of where anyone stands on the controversy surrounding Bears Ears National Monument, there’s no doubt that public-private partnerships are needed to address the very real issues here on the ground,” he said. “We know that the threatened cultural sites of Bears Ears can’t wait for a government bailout or a final resolution in years of legal proceedings.”

Ewing said the campaign is important going forward in a time of intense controversy over land management at Bears Ears, with an acknowledgement that cultural resources need to be protected regardless of partisan disputes.

“What excites me the most is being able to do some real on the ground work that is not affected by all the controversy surrounding Bears Ears,” he said. 

Ewing added that prior to this campaign, Friends of Cedar Mesa worked with state and federal land managers to identify priority projects and conducted archaeological site recordings and assessments. Over the next four years, the campaign will focus on implementing site-specific conservation measures, rerouting of trails, installation of “Visit with Respect” signage, construction of cattle-exclusion fencing, removal of graffiti and other conservation work at an estimated two dozen sites across the greater Bears Ears region.

“Without question this unique partnership and project will make a substantial difference in protecting the unparalleled landscape of Bears Ears,” Ewing said. “One way or another, these places need to be protected and taken care of.”