US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke arrived in Utah over the weekend and started a tour that will include visits to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments as well as meetings with various stakeholders. President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Interior (DOI) on April 26 to review national monuments that were designated in the last 21 years. Bears Ears includes world-class climbing areas such as Indian Creek, and the outcome of the review could have broad implications for the future of these national monuments, many of which contain climbing areas. Conservation groups fear that the review could result in these monuments being rescinded or reduced.
The (DOI) released a list on May 5 that includes 27 monuments that will be the initial ones to go under review. Bears Ears is the first. Zinke arrived in San Juan County, where Bears Ears is located, on Monday, May 8, and took an aerial tour in a trio of Blackhawk helicopters before going on a hike. Zinke is expected to wrap up his Utah visit Wednesday, May 10. An evolving itinerary of his visit can be found here.
Thousands of people rallied in support of the monuments in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 6. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that a “much smaller” anti-monument rally took place in Blanding.
On May 4, High Country News reported on a phone conference held by members of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition during which “leaders from the Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe and other Southwest tribes criticized Zinke for ignoring multiple requests to meet with them and discuss Bears Ears.” Zinke ultimately met with tribal leaders during a closed-door meeting Sunday. USNews.com reported after the meeting that “[Zinke] says he may not necessarily recommend that…Trump rescind or shrink two Utah national monuments, and it’s possible that once he views the red rock areas, he could decide the monuments need to be larger.”
The Access Fund released the following statement May 8:
We are pleased that Secretary Zinke has agreed to meet with the Inter-tribal Coalition. The coalition of Native American Tribes is an important stakeholder group that will stress the importance of protecting the entire Bears Ears region, as well as describe their role in the multi-year effort to protect the sensitive landscape. We encourage Secretary Zinke to eventually meet with all stakeholder groups, including the climbing community, to ensure a comprehensive review. Access Fund has reached out to Secretary Zinke to offer a private tour of Indian Creek in order to share the climbing community’s perspective on the region’s recreation resources. Climbers will also meet with his staff next week during Climb the Hill to discuss a range of public land issues including Bears Ears.
Access Fund, American Alpine Club and Outdoor Alliance will continue to interface with the Department of Interior throughout the national monument review process. The Department of Interior is only accepting comments on Bears Ears National Monument for 15 days after they publish their official notice shortly, and we will send an action alert to mobilize climbers.
Other national monuments under review that contain climbing areas are San Gabriel Mountains and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments. We will keep the climbing community posted on the national monument review process, but in the meantime please send Secretary Zinke comments regarding the exceptional value of Bears Ears National Monument.
The DOI will also be accepting comments here after May 12.
[This story has been updated to correct a previous statement that reported there were 28 monuments listed for review; there are 27.–Ed.]