Guest blog: Pro skier Caroline Gleich on why we need to protect Bears Ears

Pro skier and mountaineer Caroline Gleich has loved the Bears Ears region of Utah since before she actually visited.

Photo by Forest Woodward.

Utah’s Bears Ears region is good for the soul and too precious to exploit. It’s time to protect it—both for cultural resources and climbing.

Caroline Gleich is a professional skier, mountaineer, all-around outdoor adventurer and conservationist in Salt Lake City, Utah. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.


There’s no place on earth like Southeast Utah’s Bears Ears region. I remember the first time I visited the area, many years ago to do some canyoneering and rock climbing on a spring trip. If you’ve never been there, it’s difficult to describe the beauty and the magnitude of the place. It’s not just a place you visit; it’s a place that stays with you long after you visit and lives in your heart forever. Like many other people, I’ve always felt a deep emotional connection to this place.

"From the first time I saw a picture of someone climbing at Indian Creek, I knew I had to go." Photo by Rob Lea.

My love of this region started long before I ever visited there. From the first time I saw a picture of someone climbing at Indian Creek, I knew I had to go. And it’s not just climbers that adore this place. It’s known and revered by outdoor adventurers worldwide for its myriad recreation opportunities—climbing, biking, backpacking, rafting or simply counting stars while camping under a dark night sky.

It’s an experience that connects us to the ancestral roots of our humanity, with good reason. The Bears Ears region is home to more than 100,000 cultural and archaeological sites, making it perhaps the most significant unprotected archeological site in the United States. Multiple indigenous cultures have called this their ancestral homeland since time immemorial.

"If you’ve never been there, it’s difficult to describe the beauty and the magnitude of the place. It’s not just a place you visit; it’s a place that stays with you long after you visit and lives in your heart forever." - Caroline Gleich on Bears Ears

Native Americans continue to use Bears Ears today to conduct ceremonies and to hunt and gather herbs and medicines. A first-of-its-kind inter-tribal coalition of five sovereign Native American Tribes – Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni - are calling on President Obama to designate a 1.9 million-acre national monument for the Bears Ears cultural landscape.

Bears Ears is revered by outdoor adventurers worldwide for its climbing, biking, backpacking, rafting, stargazing and more. Photo by Forest Woodward.

Protection of the land here would bring much-needed visitor education and law enforcement to stop the ongoing desecration of Native American graves and sacred sites. It would also halt threats to recreation posed by oil and gas development and potash and uranium mining.

In college at the University of Utah, I majored in anthropology. I learned the way to understand humanity is to know our roots. If we don’t protect these archaeological resources, we may lose our ability to learn about human history that is culturally significant to the people of the United States and the rest of the world.

"It’s unbelievable that this place isn’t protected and it’s time to change that. Protecting Bears Ears will help secure a strong legacy for future generations..."

It’s absolutely critical that the climbing/outdoor community gets involved in this issue, to make sure that low-impact climbing and human-powered recreation access is protected. “Leave no trace” recreation practices are compatible with Native American values, and together we can work to be stewards of the land—to preserve the incredible Bears Ears experience for future generations.


Learn more about why we must #ProtectBearsEarsNow


As an avid outdoors woman, I love calling Utah home for many reasons and Bears Ears is one of them. It’s hard to put into words the joy of climbing in this incredible place.

Unlike oil and gas development, responsible outdoor recreation has the ability to bring in economic revenue in Utah for the next 100 years, rather than the next 5-10. This place is too precious to exploit. Anyone who has visited this area can attest to this—there’s something about this region that is good for the soul.

It’s unbelievable that this place isn’t protected and it’s time to change that. Protecting Bears Ears will help secure a strong legacy for future generations of Americans. The time for action is now.  

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