A local non-profit has built a visitor’s center at Bears Ears National Monument to help visitors enjoy the site respectfully. Representatives say the number of visitors has increased since 2017 when the monument became national news.
The monument was established in December of 2016 by a presidential proclamation made by President Barack Obama.
“The monument was made at the request of five tribes that came together to form the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition: the Ute, the Ute Mountain Ute, Navaho, Hopi and Zuni," said Jocelyn Meyers, communications and development director at the non-profit organization Friends of Cedar Mesa.
In December 2017, just under a year after it was created, President Donald Trump used a presidential proclamation to reduce the size of the monument from over 2000 square miles of protected land to 315 square miles. Lawsuits immediately followed.
The resulting media attention has increased the number of visitors to the area, and the extra foot-traffic has caused some damage.
“Of course, once the monument was designated and then the subsequent media attention surrounding that, inevitably is going to bring more people to the region and we have seen that," Meyers said. "The goal of the center truly is to teach people about this sensitive cultural landscape with the goal of lessening visitor impact out on the landscape.”
She says as long as there’s a need the Friends of Cedar Mesa will keep their visitor’s center open.
“For the current time, the center continues to thrive and grow. Eventually down the road, if a governmental agency opens a center, if the tribes and pueblos open a center, we’ll happily take a step back.”