Prior to the Bears Ears National Monument (BENM), designated by President Obama using executive order from Hawaii less than one year ago, 92 percent of San Juan County was already under federal management/protection. Much of this land was “Wilderness Area,” which is the strictest form of land protection an area can have. The executive order signed by President Trump did not change that; it restores the same protection that was on the land prior — it does preserve multiuse of this area.
The threats of drilling, development and state land grabs are just scare tactics to sway people. This area is extremely remote and filled with rugged terrain, making it very unlikely that building development and extraction will happen here. For that reason, you’ll note there has been no drilling, nor building, over the past 10-plus years in San Juan County, let alone in the original BENM area.
We don't want to become another Moab, where businesses have signs that say, "Please don't bathe in our sinks." Our county frequently suffers drought conditions and can barely sustain the population we have. We have also seen, thanks to Moab, what a tourist-based business does to a community, and it is not a favorable economic plan to sustain family living.
Unfortunately, there is nothing in the history of our nation that shows that monuments protect land. All recent research shows that monuments lead to increased visitation, which leads to increased desecration.
The Antiquities Act simply states that designations need to be "the smallest area" possible. In the original 1.35 million acres, important "antiquities" were not scattered throughout that gigantic acreage. It is wiser to focus on a smaller manageable size to protect valuable resources. Antiquities Act designations are not designed to protect night skies, flora and fauna and biking.
San Juan County did not need a gigantic national monument to protect this land. Residents have every intention of being good stewards and practicing conservation strategies. Those living closest to the land are invested in keeping it "pristine," as former Secretary Jewell described it when she came in 2016.
We would like to maintain our way of life while still being able to welcome visitors.