The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education’s founders Zac and Celine Adair recently returned from this month’s Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the buzz inside The Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center was centered around moving the show out of Utah and to a state with “a more friendly view of federally designated lands.”
The controversy stems from a yearlong dispute that pits the present governor of Utah, Republican legislators and many residents of the area against environmentalists and dozens of Native American tribal nations.
The argument revolves around determining the best way to conserve and develop the Bears Ears area in southeastern Utah.
Named for a pair of isolated mesas resembling a bear raising its head above the horizon, Bears Ears National Monument encompasses 1.3 million acres of wilderness area between the San Juan and Colorado rivers. This triangle of land is held sacred by a number of Native American tribes, including a coalition of Hopi, Navajo, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni governments.
An estimated 100,000 archaeological sites are located (note: link opens a PDF file) — and protected — within the Bears Ears area, including cliff dwellings that date back more than 3,500 years and other cultural sites that are deemed sacred to the half dozen tribes that make up the coalition.
And while nearly everyone involved in this eco-dispute agrees the Bears Ears area should be protected, the extent of management of the land is in question, with many Utah legislators envisioning room for commercial development and fossil fuel extraction in lands adjacent to the area.
For more than four decades, Utah ranchers, residents and lawmakers have fought to