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Patagonia Continues Fight to Protect Bears Ears

Some may remember when Patagonia voiced their concern over Utah’s position on Bears Ears National Monument earlier this year.

The company, founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973, announced they wouldn’t attend the Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City in protest of the state’s agreement with the current federal government that the size of Bears Ears be reduced.

Many companies followed, such as Arc’teryx and Metolius, forcing the organizers of the event to move Outdoor Retailer to Denver, Colorado.

Patagonia’s logo is the skyline of Cerro Fitz Roy in Argentina, but after this year it could very well be the North and South Six Shooters in Indian Creek, towers threatened by the Trump administration’s plans.

President Trump’s team wants to shrink the monument, a 1.3 million-acre piece Utah’s desert set around the Bears Ears Buttes, by as much as 90 per cent.

Protections for Valley of the Gods, Indian Creek and other important Native American heritage areas would be removed. There are hundreds of historic cliff dwellings that can be found high on the walls, some date back 3,500 years.

The Six Shooters are popular climbing objectives

“We feel very much that we have a moral and business obligation to protect these places,” says Patagonia’s director of global communications, Corley Kenna. “If the President tries to rescind Bears Ears we’ll take every step, including legal action, to see that these places are protected. We’re prepared to do that.”

Bears Ears is also home to some of the most iconic rock climbing, river rafting and mountain biking in America. Countless outdoor enthusiasts travel to the area every year.

The public found out about plans to alter Bears Ears after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s private memo to Trump, which details the reduction in size of the monument, was leaked to the Washington Post earlier this fall. Over the summer, 27 of the 129 existing National Monuments (the ones created after 1996 that have at least 100,00 acres) were reviewed to possibly be altered.

President Obama helped create Bears Ears under the rules set out in the Antiquities Act. What is the Antiquities Act? In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law after the act was passed by the United States Congress.

The law gives the sitting President the authority to, by presidential proclamation, create national monuments from federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features.

The act resulted from concerns about protecting mostly prehistoric Native American ruins and artifacts, collectively termed “antiquities,” on federal lands.

National monuments are different than national parks. In general, congress designates national parks and presidential proclamations establish national monuments.

A monument seeks to protect things with cultural, historical and even scientific value, such as fossil sites, ruins, military forts, buildings and wilderness areas. National parks are protected for their educational, inspirational and recreational value.

The National Parks Service oversees all parks, but not all monuments. That responsibility can go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Defense, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management. It depends on the location and size.

The largest national park is the 13.2-million-acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska. National monuments are often much smaller than parks and only need one item of interest to be designated.

Bears Ears permits fishing, hunting, cattle grazing, mining and a number of recreational activities. There are a number of local stakeholders that are against the shrinking of Bears Ears, such as conservationists and 30 Native American tribes. In 2015, five of those tribes set aside generations-old differences to form the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.

“The recommendations to eliminate protections are very troubling to our tribal nations who worked for decades to protect these sacred lands,” said Carleton Bowekaty, co-chair of the Bears Ears Commission of Tribes.

“The proposed reduction in size would leave thousands of sites more vulnerable to vandalism, compromise the integrity of the landscape as a whole and disrespect the unified voices of tribal nations that have consistently called for Bears Ears to be protected.”

Thank you for your continued defense of public lands.

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Trump will be visiting Bears Ears in December and the announcement about the area’s future is expected. Until there is an official change to Bears Ears, there will be no lawsuits from the Navajo Nation, Patagonia or any groups.

“As Americans, we’re all public land owners,” says Kenna. “This is a uniquely American thing – an American heritage that we have and it’s really important to who we are … it unites us. It’s actually an issue that has support from hardcore Democrats and hardcore Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, hunters and hikers. As Americans this is something we hold really dear.”

Patagonia is one of the leaders in the fight against Zinke’s recommendation to shrink Bears Ears. You can help fight by filling out a form here.

Visit Patagonia’s dedicated Bears Ears sit here. And for stories from locals visit here.