Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New Study Finds Ecological Significance of Bears Ears National Monument Rivals that of National Parks
Press Release

RELEASE: New Study Finds Ecological Significance of Bears Ears National Monument Rivals that of National Parks

Washington, D.C. — A new analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress in partnership with Conservation Science Partners finds that Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah is one of the wildest and most ecologically rich areas in the West—and is at risk of being sold off to the mining, oil, and gas industry.

Looking at 10 ecological indicators, the analysis found that the monument is in the top 10 percent of similarly sized places in the West for ecological intactness, connectivity, and night sky darkness.

“The cultural significance of the area is unparalleled, and this study shows that—scientifically and environmentally speaking—Bears Ears has few peers,” said Jenny Rowland, Research and Advocacy Manager for the Public Lands Project at CAP and author of the column. “Not only is Bears Ears ecologically valuable, but it also holds its own as a national treasure even when compared with some of the nation’s most iconic national parks.”

The analysis also compared the monument to seven national parks: Arches; Canyonlands; Glacier; Grand Canyon; Rocky Mountain; Yellowstone; and Yosemite. It found that not only is the ecological significance of Bears Ears National Monument comparable to some of the country’s most iconic parks, but it exceeded the parks in numerous categories.

Despite this significance, several Utah politicians have made no secret of their desire for President Donald Trump to revoke the protected status of the monument, and in a White House briefing yesterday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke confirmed that the administration is considering changes to national monuments.

With its ecological importance and strong tribal support, the threats posed by Utah politicians and the administration raise serious questions about the motives for getting rid of the monument. CAP’s analysis found that Bears Ears scored in the 69th percentile for mineral resources and in the 54th percentile for oil and gas, leaving it vulnerable to development if unprotected.

“With its conservation significance among the ranks of our national parks, Bears Ears deserves to be kept in the public’s hands and protected for future generations,” added Rowland. “Efforts to get rid of protections for the area should be seen for what they are: a sell-out of our national heritage to special interests.”

Legal scholars consider efforts to revoke national monuments illegal. A move of that magnitude would put the area’s cultural antiquities at risk and would leave the environment vulnerable to irreversible development.

Click here to read the column.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at [email protected] or 202.481.7141.