Commitment to preserving Native American culture and treasured lands recognized by designation of Bears Ears and Gold Butte national monuments

Dec 28, 2016
Photo by Mason Cummings.
Wilderness Society statement on the protection of threatened lands in Utah and Nevada

President Obama acted on the urging of several Native American tribes and their supporters by designating national monuments in Nevada and Utah. This action followed years of public demand for better protections and the growing threats from looting, vandalism and theft. America’s newest national monuments—Bears Ears in Southeastern Utah and Gold Butte near Las Vegas Nevada – recognize the deep cultural and historical connections of Native American people to the land while also ensuring that future generations will be able to explore and recreate in these treasured landscapes.

The following statement on today’s announcement is from Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society:

“All Americans can join in the celebration of our newest national monuments that recognize the importance of our Native American history and the living landscapes where Native culture continues to thrive today. The effort to protect both Bears Ears and Gold Butte extends back decades and today’s designations will ensure that future generations are able to relish in the past while exploring these historical and sensitive regions.

In addition to conserving some of the West’s wildest lands, the monuments will foster economic growth through opportunities to play and recreate in the red-stone landscapes that continue to draw families, outdoor enthusiasts and scientific discovery. National monuments help protect outdoor and educational opportunities for future generations and are part of what makes our country great.

It is encouraging to see President Obama continue to lead in the protection of America’s greatest treasures and we will work hard to help ensure the success of these new national monuments as well as defend our public lands from outside interests who conspire to take them away from the public.”


The Bears Ears National Monument is a place rich in history and has been considered America’s most unprotected cultural landscape until now. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, comprised of five sovereign Indian nations—the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah & Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni—formally petitioned President Barack Obama to proclaim the Bears Ears National Monument due to the inadequacy of legislative efforts to protect the area for all Native people and the nation.

For a decade, Senator Harry Reid advocated for legislation to permanently protect Gold Butte, and in 2016 a broad coalition of supporters joined him in urging President Obama to take action. Earlier this year a poll found that 71 percent of Nevadans supported national monument status for Gold Butte and a report released in August showing recent looting and vandalism added to the need for swift action to permanently protect the area. In addition to the wildlife that call this part of the fragile Mojave desert home and the abundant recreation opportunities, Native Americans have a deep cultural connection that dates back thousands of years. The lands in Gold Butte host cultural sites, including rock shelters, roasting pits, walls of rock art, stone tools and pieces of pottery.

Matt Keller
(970) 946-0906