A couple of weeks ago, Orrin Hatch published an editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune promoting the heartbreaking beauty of our national parks while minimizing the Bears Ears National Monument proposal as "federal overreach." His letter conveniently overlooked the history of our "Big Five" national parks, four of which were originally protected under the antiquities act as national monuments using the same "stroke of the pen" that President Obama could use to protect the Bears Ears.
We have all closely examined the Public Lands Initiative and many of us, myself included, were a part of that PLI process. We met with all invested parties —including energy organizations, SITLA, BLM (both local, state and federal), and local residents — and found compromise that everyone could live with. The proposal was submitted to the PLI and, by the time it reached the published draft, had transformed nearly every acre we had asked to be preserved into expedited energy development territory; the exception being Bears Ears, which was cut by nearly a million acres. This bill is many things, but it is no compromise. It is critically unbalanced white noise to run down the clock on any meaningful means of preservation.
Our Utah officials made their decision long before anything was brought to the table. Their conflicts of interest should not only discredit their stance, but emphasize the need for presidential action. We seek a proposal that is respectful. A proposal that does not dehumanize or insult the intelligence of the tribes. A proposal that assures that our children and grandchildren have access to their land and culture. Most importantly, we seek a resolution that is not written with a coyote's grin and false interest in what is right for the land or the people.
We have been told to be patient as the bones of mothers, fathers and children have been scattered into mosaics on canyon floors, picked apart for the rings around their fingers and the necklaces draped from their necks. Every day. Every hour. The past is slipping from us, falling through our fingers like fine grains of desert sand. We have waited long enough. This is our unshakable opportunity to be heard.
We are requesting a national monument because we understand that the Bears Ears is priceless as it was found. We hunger for a designation that sustains its spiritual, scenic and cultural integrity. Its canyons are the veins that carry the blood through to our hearts, bringing life to our communities' identity, spirit, and cultures — both native and Mormon. Consigning it into oblivion or allowing it to be destroyed would be a tragedy from which we couldn't recover.
While Orrin Hatch has resorted to threats if the Bears Ears is designated, many of us understand that conflict is not a form of objection that this country will tolerate. It is no protest, it is a hostage situation that would be irresponsible for our nation to give in to. Rewarding illegal and violent behavior does not make our public lands safer, it legitimizes anti-federal extremists — our Utah officials included — who believe that fear and unrest are the most persuasive means of effecting change.
Utah officials are right about one thing: Those who know the Bears Ears best should be deciding on its ultimate preservation. Coincidentally, we have overwhelmingly decided to urge our president to designate the Bears Ears as a national monument.
Jonathan Bailey is an artist and author of "Rock Art: A Vision of a Vanishing Cultural Landscape."