February 21, 2017
Dear Congressman Zinke,
Congratulations on your recent approval from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for Secretary of Interior. We look forward to your confirmation vote on the Senate floor. We also hope that you take the time to read the letter sent by our county commissioner, Phil Lyman, and we would like to add our invitation to his.
The Stewards of San Juan is a recognized community organization vested with the responsibility of reviewing and taking actions on matters of local concern that are in the best interest of the health, safety, and welfare of San Juan County residents. This organization uses a balanced and inclusive approach to advocate for the values, resources, opportunities, culture, and lifestyle of San Juan County. We are writing to you today to inform you of our opposition to the recent 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County as designated by President Obama. We stand with our elected city, county, and state officials, as well as, local Navajo and Ute tribes, who also oppose this designation and are currently asking President Trump to rescind it.
The majority of Navajo and Ute residents in San Juan County overwhelmingly oppose the monument designation, in contrast to out-of-county/state tribes who know very little of this area and will simply not be affected by this monument. It is appalling that non-local voices have drowned out those who treasure this land the most. Long before established bureaus arrived, it was and has always been the local people who have protected and cared for this land; we are the reason it is pristine. We also understand that multiple use of the land is vital to our economic and cultural survival, which is why it is so important that we are, and continue to be, excellent stewards of this land.
This monument was designated in order to appease outside special interest groups. It was done WITHOUT a robust consultation with the stakeholders who actually live in San Juan County. Voices of life-long residents and tribal members have been, and continue to be, blatantly ignored. Non-government organizations such as the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and Conservation Lands Foundation should never have the power to trump sovereign State rights, nor duly elected officials, no matter how big their wallets are. When the former Interior Secretary visited our state, she prioritized her time to meet with these outside groups and those that would only be marginally affected by the monument. For this reason, we hope that when you visit our state you will prioritize your time to meet with the people of San Juan County, the elected officials that we have chosen to represent us, and the Navajo and Ute tribes whose way of life will be devastated by this monument. We thank you for your time and consideration on this matter, and look forward to meeting you soon.
Jami Bayles, President
Stewards of San Juan County, UT
CC: President Donald Trump
Utah Congressional Delegation
Utah Governor Gary Herbert
San Juan County Commission
Co-Vice Presidents – Suzette Morris, Ryan Benally
Treasurer, Wendy Black
Secretary, Eva Clarke Workman
Photo Credit – Brooke Pehrson Photography