precedent: BEARS EARS and GOLD BUTTE NATIONAL MONUMENTS

Title: Bears Ears an Gold Butte National Monuments

Author: President Obama

Location: Utah + Nevada, USA

Year of designation: 2016

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This literal monument does not evoke or resemble a historical figure, or event, moment or cause, detached memory or symbolic body. But rather, it is the thing itself that must be preserved in order to honor its inherent meaningfulness.

On December 27, 2016, Obama designated two environmentally and culturally significant landscapes National Monuments. The Bears Ears Region, in Utah and the Gold Butte, in Nevada, together constitute 1.65 million acres of newly protected land.

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The Antiquities Act was signed into law on June 8, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt, establishing the first general legal protection of cultural and natural resources in the United States. This law obligates federal agencies that manage the public lands to preserve for present and future generations the historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of the archaeological and historic sites and structures on these lands.

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“The rock art, ancient dwellings, and ceremonial sites concealed within these breathtaking landscapes help tell the story of people who have stewarded these lands for hundreds of generations. Today’s action builds on an extraordinary effort from tribes, local communities, and members of Congress to ensure that these treasures are protected for generations to come, so that tribes may continue to use and care for these lands, and all may have an opportunity to enjoy their beauty and learn from their rich cultural history.”                       

  – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

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This designation provides an important opportunity to honor the sovereignty of Native American tribes in the present day, granting their governments responsibility and independence, while providing for their people access, security and stewardship of the land. The Intertribal Council, uniting the Hopi, Navajo, Ute and Zuni, was formed to advocate for the protection of Bears Ears and is a demonstration of partnership between autonomous tribes who share a common interest, turning the landscape into a monument of their solidary efforts.

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“President Obama has been consistent in his commitment to work with Tribal governments, and this historic designation builds on his legacy. We are particularly pleased that the designation affirms tribal sovereignty and provides a collaborative role for Tribes to work with the federal government in maintaining the land. Because Tribes will help manage this land, it reaffirms President Obama’s fundamental commitment to human rights and equity in voice. Furthermore, while the land will be protected, our local Utah-based tribal members will continue to have access to the land for gathering ceremonial herbs. The land has always been a place of sacredness and fortitude for our people. Now it will be preserved for all future generations.”

– Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye

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