President Obama Establishes Bears Ears National Monument

The San Juan River is now protected under the 1.3-million acre Bears Ears National Monument. Photo: Will Taylor
The 1.3-million acre Bears Ears National Monument now protects more than a million acres across Nevada and Utah, including this section of Utah’s San Juan River. Photo: Will Taylor

President Obama Establishes Bears Ears National Monument

In another set of conservation efforts, President Barack Obama officially designated two new national monuments on Wednesday: 1.3 million acres surrounding the Bears Ears Buttes in southeastern Utah and 300,000 acres around Gold Butte, Nevada.

Obama’s latest land-protection move comes in his last month as commander-in-chief before President-Elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20.

In the proclamation from the White House, Obama wrote of the Bears Ears:

“Protection of the Bears Ears area will preserve its cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans. The Bears Ears area has been proposed for protection by members of Congress, Secretaries of the Interior, State and tribal leaders, and local conservationists for at least 80 years. The area contains numerous objects of historic and of scientific interest, and it provides world class outdoor recreation opportunities, including rock climbing, hunting, hiking, backpacking, canyoneering, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and horseback riding.”

The Beauty of Bears Ears – Celebrating the New Monument from Friends of Cedar Mesa on Vimeo.

While they didn’t include standup paddling, canoeing and kayaking in there, we know that they’re included: the SUP Magazine and Canoe & Kayak staffs recently visited the protected region for a three-day trip down the San Juan River, an area rich in Native American pictographs, archaeological sites and artifacts, as well as outstanding desert beauty.

Obama’s moves are not without controversy: most representatives from both states oppose the designations, as they prohibit resource extraction and development in those areas. While the opposition has said they will challenge the monuments, reports The New York Times, no president has undone a designation in the 110 years since the Antiquities Act was created.

Look for a full story on our trip down the San Juan River in our upcoming Gear Guide. Subscribe!

Read the full White House Proclamation on the Bears Ears.