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Part 2: The Argument For And Against Bears Ears National Monument

Jon Kovash
Mark Maryboy addresses Saturday’s tribal celebration of the Bears Ears designation at Monument Valley";

Mark Maryboy has been a key Bears Ears consultant for Utah Dine Bikeyah and the five tribe coalition. I spoke with him at the Twin Rocks Café in Bluff.

“The best hope that we have is to reach out to all the environmental groups, stakeholders, people throughout the United States, to protect the monument that’s been put in place. I think they’re going to make every attempt, look for every opportunity to not fund the monument, let it go down. But I think it’s more easily said than done.”       

Maryboy understands that the fight for Bears Ears is not over, but he remains optimistic in the face of the Republican opposition, especially in the long run.

Credit Jon Kovash
At the tribal celebration of the Bears Ears designation at Monument Valley.

“You have to remember that every two years there’s an election, so a year goes by pretty fast, and presidential elections, we’ll see what Donald Trump does. Maybe we’ll have a good Democratic candidate. That could restore order, you might say.”

Just looking at other monuments like Canyon DeChelle, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite, all of those monuments are no different from the monument that’s been created, so it seems like our monument is pretty solid, so it’s probably going to be very difficult to dismantle what’s been put in place.”

Maryboy headed up a key effort to interview Utah Navajos and Utes that helped lead to the intertribal proposal for Bear Ears. An essential element is the idea that the tribes would manage the monument.

“I do think we have a very sophisticated plan, dealing with endangered species, talking about traditional use, ancient sites, paleontology no one talks about, Bears Ears is where you find a lot of those, and they need to be protected.”

During the runup to President Obama’s decision, the prospect of a big influx of  Moab-style tourism was viewed with alarm, mainly by the white Mormon residents.

Maryboy says Navajos don’t have any problem with tourism.

“I think tourism is here to stay. It’s a sustainable, sufficient economic development versus energy development. Energy development pays good, employs a lot of people, but it’s short-lived. It’s a boom and bust kind of industry and all it does is leave toxic material in the ground and in the air. I personally myself don’t want Bluff turned into Park City or a huge town. The main thing is we protect the land, we protect the archaeology, we protect the traditional sites, and the tribal members continue to practice their traditional way of life, wood gathering, herb gathering and ceremonials. They like the sedentary, peaceful way of life. They are very happy with the environment, a healthy, clean way of living instead of some rat race.

As far as creating a huge town like Moab in Bluff, it’s not something we really envision.”

Maryboy concluded that “one of the big mistakes” made by Utah Republicans was failing to work with tribal government and thus, failure to recognize tribal sovereignty. 

“Native Americans have a special status according to the constitution and according to the laws of our nation. They have treaties.

Part 1 of the story can be found here.