Past – History of SOS
The SOS call for help in preserving San Juan County public lands, local traditions, grazing, multiple use was sounded nearly a year before Stewards of San Juan County ever organized. Unlike most political causes, who organize top down, Stewards of San Juan County grew from the grass roots of this southernmost county of Utah. It started with the seeds of love for this land that Navajo, Ute, Hispanic and Anglos all call home. Those seeds included concerns on how public land would be used, and who would be making decisions. We were concerned on how best to protect archaeological sites; how to protect the traditional customs of Native Americans and Anglos; how to protect our water shed, and the multiple use of designated areas in the county.
At one of the first public meetings a large contingency from the Navajo reservation arrived. They were joined by a diverse group of farmers, ranchers, school teachers, social workers, ATV users, hunters, miners, county and city officers, retirees and teenagers. We soon discovered we all had the same concerns about well-funded environmental NGO’s who were attempting to control our futures. Many ideas were shared, and phone numbers and e-mails were collected. Thus the seeds of concern were planted and began to grow. This “gathering” of kindred minds formed and functioned as Secret group of Facebook and through e-mail. There were no officers or sponsors, or money to run the organization. In fact, it had no name; it only had a cause-to prevent the designation of a National Monument. County Commissioners Phil Lyman, Rebecca Benally, and Bruce Adams along with librarian, Nicole Perkins helped us through the learning curve of politics and land 101.
As future public meetings and discussions were held, we quickly learned that it would not be local people who would have much say in the well promoted Bears Ears National Monument that the Conservation Lands Foundation of Durango was pushing. For six months those seeds of concern grew until a large contingent of over 2500 people were meeting at strange hours of the day and night whenever they had a minute, on Facebook. It was there that ideas were generated, information shared, questions asked, plans made, and work took place. If you wanted to help you joined the thread. Ideas and willingness to help were the watch words and hundreds of valuable ideas were shared as we supported one another. These seeds spread across the state and sometimes across the nation. We often found ourselves working with people 300 miles away, often in the middle of the night. There were still not any official officers, guidelines, mission statement, or paid officers or CEO’s telling us what to do say or write. We were all volunteer minutemen and women and this was a labor of love for San Juan County and our united way of life.
During that time, we helped build floats, participated in Navajo and county parades, designed, created and sold T-shirts, and decals. We designed flyers, brochures, and web sites. Photographers donated their time so that the stories of San Juan could be shared on www.savebearsears.com. We wrote articles, edited articles, attended meetings, made posters, and most importantly we supported each other and made hundreds of new friends.
Then we took on the impossible – we needed something big……
Present – Mission of SOS
We are a diverse working group made up of stakeholders, advocates, and interested citizens who are working together to evaluate and determine how we can best maintain and enhance land in San Juan County. Our focus is to preserve and protect the remarkable features of our landscapes, resources, and wildlife habitat. We seek to honor our unique lifestyles, our cultural and cherished traditional uses, and the recreational opportunities that the land has to offer.
Future- Vision of SOS
This organization uses a balanced and inclusive approach to advocate for the values, resources, opportunities, culture, and lifestyle of San Juan County. This comprehensive stakeholder group includes:
• San Juan County citizens, or former citizens
• Business owners
• Native American Tribal members
• Year-round recreational interests and tourism
• Ranchers and agricultural supporters
• Nature enthusiasts
• Conservation advocates
• Wildlife and healthy species advocates
• Teachers and education activists