Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Editorial - Zinke leaves Bears Ears dispute unsettled

The best thing that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke could have done about the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah was absolutely nothing. He could have made a firm recommendation to the president to leave the monument designation in place and allow the process of managing, and adapting to, the new status of all that already-federally owned land to go forward at its own pace. What Zinke did was tantalizingly close to that. By admitting that some of the area deserves eternal protection, making a vague suggestion about redrawing the monument's borders, calling on Congress to get involved and extending the time for public comments, the secretary has created a little breathing room. He has left open the possibility that, when it is all over, a significant amount of land that is sacred to the area's Native Americans will be indeed protected, that the tribes involved will possess some unquestioned legal authority over what happens there and that future monument designations will be done in a way that creates more consensus and less division. Of course, Zinke has also left open a door that could be exploited by some who forget that the land involved has long been the common property of all the people of the United States, who ignore the need to view whole ecosystems as worthy of protection and who show little or no regard for the legitimate spiritual needs of the Native peoples who have been tied to the land for thousands of years...more

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