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Is Utah the Next Dakota?

In the wake of the Dakota Pipeline decision, handed down by the Army Corps of Engineers not to build under the sacred waters of Standing Rock, another hit to tribal lands looms. A bill introduced in the US House of Representatives by Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz seeks to take 100,000 acres of Ute tribal lands and hand them over to oil companies. Will Bears Ears be the next Standing Rock?

The proposed bill also seeks to remove protection from 18 million acres of land, which would prevent it from being designated a national monument. Bears Ears, an area spanning southeast of Canyonlands, stretching down to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, is an unprotected culturally significant region, containing more than 100,000 Native American archaeological sites.

For over 11,000 years, this area has been inhabited by the Navajo, Ute, and Palute people, and it is home to their ancient rock paintings, petroglyphs, and artifacts. Many of which have been vandalized or looted in recent years.

The area is rich in natural resources, including uranium and potash mineral deposits, as well as tar sands. Tar sands can be mined and refined into oil, which has oil and gas companies eyeing the area for drilling. The area around Bears Ears, including Canyonlands and Arches National Park are already dotted with oil rigs.

As with Standing Rock, a coalition of tribes, including the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Pueblo of Zuni and Ute Indian Tribe has come together to protect these lands.

Under the antiquities act, opposed by Bishop and Chaffetz, Bears Ears could be declared a national monument. A poll in May 2016 found that 71% of voters would support the national monument. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) has also been working in support to protect Bears Ears and red rock wilderness in Utah.

Standing Rock brought together 200 tribes, bringing an awareness of plight of money and big oil over land protection. Southern Utah may be the next battleground.

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