Conservation News

A Timeline of the Bears Ears National Monument Fight

President Donald Trump is expected to announce plans to shrink Bears Ears. We go over the history of America's most controversial monument.


bears ears under starry sky
John Fowler

Bears Ears, a 1.35-million-acre swath of desert and canyons in southern Utah, has become the United States’ most controversial national monument. But how did it get that way? We delve into its history to paint a picture of one of America’s most high-profile public lands fights.

October 2015

Bears Ears National Monument
Bob Wick/BLM

Following years of archeological thefts and damage from ATV riders and other users, five tribes—the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, Hopi Tribe, and Uinta and Ouray Ute Indian Tribe—ask President Obama to create a new 1.9-million-acre national monument protecting Bears Ears.

December 2016

bears ears national monument
Bob Wick/BLM

President Obama establishes Bears Ears National Monument by executive order, protecting a 1.35-million-acre area and giving tribal groups an active role in administering it. Utah legislators, including Rep. Rob Bishop and Sen. Orrin Hatch decry the new monument as federal overreach.

February 2017

Bears Ears National Monument
John Fowler

After Utah Governor Gary Herbert signs a resolution calling on President Donald Trump to rescind Bears Ears’ designation as a national monument, Patagonia announces it will boycott the twice-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City until it moves out of state. Several other brands, including Arc’teryx and Polartec, soon follow suit.

February 2017

cedar mesa
Bureau of Land Management

Days after Patagonia’s boycott, the organizers of Outdoor Retailer announce that the trade show will leave Utah in response to its public lands policies. The show has since moved to Denver.

April 2017

Bears Ears National Monument
Bob Wick/BLM

President Trump orders the Department of the Interior to conduct a review of 26 national monuments, including Bears Ears

June 2017

bears ears

In a press conference, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he will recommend that President Trump shrink Bears Ears National Monument. He does not release his report publicly or specify what changes it contains.

November 2017

Bears Ears under milky way
John Fowler

Administration officials say that President Trump will officially announce plans to shrink Bears Ears, as well as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, at an appearance in Salt Lake City on December 4. Native American activists and conservation groups immediately announce that they will sue to block the decision.