Last week, the House introduced a bill that would legally solidify the President’s reversal of protections for Bears Ears National Monument and further remove protections for outdoor recreation in the region. This bill, H.R. 4532, introduced by Rep. Curtis (R-UT), has some positive attributes, including mineral withdrawal for the Bears Ears region, and dedicated funding for the monument area. However, the bill is a distraction from the President’s illegal actions and contains significant issues that would affect recreation in the region. These issues include:
- No acknowledgement of recreation. The new designations and new bill do not acknowledge outdoor recreation, including rock climbing, mountain biking, and paddling, in the same specific way as the original designation. This means that management plans could fail to protect or even prohibit these activities.
- Loss of landscape level planning. One theme through the years of efforts to protect Bears Ears is a need to protect these landscapes at scale. Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative and the original Bears Ears designation established were efforts to think about these landscapes as a whole rather than simply as piecemeal protections.
- Advisory bodies exclude recreation. The original monument designation included outdoor recreation users as part of the monument’s advisory committee. The new bill would not specifically include outdoor recreation interests.
Another significant problem with this monument advisory committee is that it is charged with management decisions and oversight over the region without fair representation of the Americans that collectively own the land. It undercuts tribal sovereignty by preventing the tribes from choosing their own representatives (instead, the President appoints representatives from tribes). It also transfers management responsibility for these lands to to a small group of cherry-picked state or local-level representatives. You can read Outdoor Alliance’s official policy letter on the bill by clicking here or at right.
This isn't the first bill responding to the President's reductions of Bears Ears. In early December, Rep. Gallego (D-AZ) had introduced a bill (H.R. 4518) that would protect the original monument boundaries in the aftermath of the rollbacks, but it has yet to get support from Republicans (the bill currently has 99 cosponsors, all Democrats). Rep. Curtis's bill has already gone through a legislative hearing in the House’s subcommittee on federal lands, and will be ready for a vote on the floor after it has gone through markup. The bill is likely to get a vote in the House Natural Resources Committee as soon as February, so now is a good time to write your House representative—especially if he or she is on the committee— and tell him or her what you think.