BLM, Forest Service and Five Tribes of the Bears Ears Commission Commit to Historic Co-management of Bears Ears National Monument
WHITE MESA, Utah – At a signing ceremony on June 18, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the five Tribes of the Bears Ears Commission formalized and celebrated their partnership for co-management of the Bears Ears National Monument.
After signing the cooperative agreement (PDF) formally recognizing their strong working relationship, the parties travelled to Highway 261 to unveil the Bears Ears National Monument sign (Flickr site), which includes insignias of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni.
“We are so pleased to celebrate this unique partnership between Tribal Nations and federal agencies to manage and protect the remarkable and sacred Bears Ears landscape,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “This is an important step as we move forward together to ensure that Tribal expertise and traditional perspectives remain at the forefront of our joint decision-making for the Bears Ears National Monument. This type of true co-management will serve as a model for our work to honor the nation-to-nation relationship in the future.”
“It’s an honor for the Department of Agriculture to sign this one-of-a-kind cooperative agreement,” said USDA’s Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Dr. Homer Wilkes. “This agreement outlines a common vision for management of Bear Ears National Monument and protection of these sacred lands that are important to so many.”
“Today, instead of being removed from a landscape to make way for a public park, we are being invited back to our ancestral homelands to help repair them and plan for a resilient future. We are being asked to apply our traditional knowledge to both the natural and human-caused ecological challenges, drought, erosion, visitation, etc.,” said Bears Ears Commission Co-Chair and Lieutenant Governor of Zuni Pueblo Carleton Bowekaty. “What can be a better avenue of restorative justice than giving Tribes the opportunity to participate in the management of lands their ancestors were removed from?”
The day before the signing of the new co-management agreement, Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Dr. Homer Wilkes, met at a brown bag lunch with several Manti La-Sal forest service employees and partners. Dr. Wilkes talked about heritage, recreation, and wildlife, specifically within the Bears Ears National Monument. Afterward, Dr. Wilkes accompanied the group on the Dry Wash Cave hike where he asked and answered questions on subjects such as hydrology and soil science, enforcement and protection, and the role of partners in supporting the new monument. In attendance were CNHA Executive Director Roxanne Bierman and Board Chair Cathy Bonde.
A Story in Stone: The Arches of Arches
The story of Arches begins roughly 65 million years ago. At that time, the area was a dry seabed spreading from horizon to horizon. If you stood in Devils Garden then, the striking red rock features we see today would have been buried thousands of feet below you, raw material as yet uncarved. Then the landscape slowly began to change.
First, geologic forces wrinkled and folded the buried sandstone, as if it were a giant rug and someone gathered two edges towards each other, making lumps across the middle called Anticlines. As the sandstone warped, fractures tore through it, establishing the patterns for rock sculptures of the future.
Next, the entire region began to rise, climbing from sea level to thousands of feet in elevation. What goes up must come down, and the forces of erosion carved layer after layer of rock away. Once exposed, deeply buried sandstone layers rebounded and expanded, like a sponge expands after it’s squeezed (though not quite so quickly). This created even more fractures, each one a pathway for water to seep into the rock and further break it down.
Today, water shapes this environment more than any other force. Rain erodes the rock and carries sediment down washes and canyons to the Colorado River. Desert varnish appears where water cascades off cliffs. In winter, snowmelt pools in fractures and other cavities, then freezes and expands, breaking off chunks of sandstone. Small recesses develop and grow bigger with each storm. Little by little, this process turns fractured rock layers into fins, and fins into arches. Arches also emerge when potholes near cliff edges grow deeper and deeper until they wear through the cliff wall below them. In addition to grand arches, water dissolves small honeycomb formations called tafoni.
Over time, the same forces that created these arches will continue to widen them until they collapse. Standing next to a monolith like Delicate Arch, it’s easy to forget that arches are impermanent. Yet the fall of Wall Arch in 2008 reminded us that this landscape continues to change. While some may fall, most of these arches will stand well beyond our lifetime: a lifetime blessed with an improbable landscape 65 million years in the making.
Manti La Sal Update
The South Zone Trail program started working with the Canyon Country Youth Corp last month on the first of several projects funded through the Great American Outdoors Act. Crews will be working on reconstructing and maintaining trails in the Abajo (Blue) mountains.
The South Zone Trail crew spent a week clearing downed trees from the Burro Pass and Mountain View trails in the La Sals. With a small crew and a windy spring, the crew has been hard at work trying to keep trails clear.
This time last year, the Pack Creek fire was burning just outside of Moab. With financial assistance from CNHA, last fall the Forest Service, along with volunteers, reseeded areas of concern that were completely burned out. The response from the seeding is encouraging, and a very good start towards recovery in these lower elevation areas. There are lots of Rocky Mountain beeplant and northern sweetvetch, sunflowers, blue flax, and Indian ricegrass coming up from our seed!
BLM Seeks Input on Mill Canyon Tracksite
MOAB, Utah — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking public input on the environmental assessment to install a new walkway to replace the aging infrastructure at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite, located 15 miles north of Moab, in Grand County.
BLM halted construction on the boardwalk replacement project in late January, after public concerns that the work was damaging the site. The Moab Field Office requested a BLM regional paleontologist visit the site in early February to conduct a paleontological assessment with recommendations for the BLM to move forward. “The maintenance and restoration of these interpretive walkways are necessary to properly protect and manage the paleontological resources at this important site,” said BLM Moab Field Manager Nicollee Gaddis-Wyatt.
The boardwalk replacement project is necessary to provide a safe and durable walking surface, so the public can continue to enjoy this paleontological resource by not treading directly on the tracks. The new surface would also improve safety from the previous wooden boardwalk that warped and presented a serious tripping hazard. Work of any type would proceed only in the presence of a qualified paleontologist authorized to oversee the project.
The tracksite includes approximately 112-million-year-old Early Cretaceous dinosaur footprints. First reported in 2009, the site contains more than 200 tracks and traces that represent at least 10 different types of animals, including non-avian theropods, sauropods, ornithopods, ankylosaurs, birds and crocodiles. These well-preserved trace fossils preserve the movements and activities of a unique and diverse Mesozoic fauna. Although the site is a short walk from the parking area and the road is accessible by most vehicles, access is currently restricted until the walkway replacement project is completed.
Written comments will be accepted by letter or ePlanning until July 26, 2022. Please note that the most useful comments are specific and contain new technical or scientific information relevant to the proposed action. Comments which contain only opinions or preferences will not receive a formal response, but these may be considered in the BLM decision-making process. Please reference “Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite” when submitting comments.
Mail: Bureau of Land Management, 82 Dogwood Avenue, Moab, Utah 84532
Before including an address, phone number, email address, or other personally identifiable information in any comments, be aware that the entire comment—including personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time.
This is an excerpt from the Canyonlands Natural History Association’s Member Newsletter. To find out more about CNHA and how to get your own copy delivered, visit the Canyonlands Natural History Association website.