New Bears Ears Community Engagement Fund Established

Recognizing the world-class cultural and natural resources of the newly established Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, a group of philanthropic foundations are committing $1.5 million to strengthen collaborative management of the area and ensure inclusion of local community voices.

President Obama designated the Bears Ears National Monument on December 28, 2016 to safeguard one of the nation’s most significant and spectacular cultural landscapes and to honor five native tribal nationsthe Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribewho, combined, prize more than 100,000 archaeological, rock art, and sacred cultural sites within the monument. With the support of another 30 tribal governments, those five tribal nations joined together for the first time in history to ask the president to designate a national monument to protect their sacred sites, which have long been threatened by ongoing looting, vandalism, and development plans.

In designating the monument, the president also established a Bears Ears Commission to ensure that tribal expertise and traditional knowledge help inform the management of the Bears Ears National Monument, and care for its national treasures. This marked the first time tribes will have such a role in managing a national monument.

To support robust tribal involvement in managing the monument, and also to support local community efforts to enhance resource conservation in the monument and to create economic opportunity, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Wyss Foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Wilburforce Foundation, and the Grand Canyon Trust are establishing the Bears Ears Community Engagement Fund. This fund will support community and tribal involvement and promote sustainable use and enjoyment of the new monument.

The Bear Ears Community Engagement Fund will provide resources to minimize threats to the Bears Ears National Monument stemming from looting and vandalism; support local community and tribal engagement; sponsor visitor education and cultural resource inventory and interpretation; promote traditional resource stewardship and use; and support sustainable recreation management by local communities.

“For the first time in history with President Obama’s designation of the Bear Ears National Monument, Tribes gained the role of collaboratively managing a national monument that honors sacred tribal lands and artifacts,” said Walter Phelps, Navajo Nation Council Delegate. “We are so grateful for this philanthropic fund, which will provide much-needed resources to help us manage and protect this important monument, for our Tribal nations, future generations, all who love this magnificent place, and for all Americans.”

“Our five Tribal nations united historically to call for a monument to protect threatened land that we all treasure,” said Carleton Bowekaty, Zuni councilman and Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition Co-Chair. “Our heritage, spirituality, and identities are all deeply rooted in this sacred land; we have been connected fundamentally with this place since time immemorial. We are so grateful for the monument designation, and now for the Bears Ears Community Engagement Fund. We’ll use these philanthropic funds to continue our tradition of preparing for the next seven generations and to protect this treasure for all Americans to enjoy.”

“Local voices, experts and volunteers need the resources to help provide real, lasting protection for the cultural and archaeological resources of this area,” said Josh Ewing, executive director of the Utah-based Friends of Cedar Mesa. “These funds will go a long ways toward empowering local people to make a difference in protecting and preserving what’s so unique about the Bears Ears landscape.”

“The president’s action to protect Bears Ears inspired us to create this fund, which is an investment in the local communities and the tribes and their ability to serve as the best stewards of the monument as well as the most capable creators of economic opportunity for the region around the monument,” said Michael Scott, acting program director of the Hewlett Foundation.

“The Bears Ears National Monument protects lands that are both stunning and sacred, and we want to ensure that the voices of tribal nations, local communities, and all Americans guide the stewardship of this remarkable place for generations to come,” said Molly McUsic, president of the Wyss Foundation.

“We are deeply grateful to President Obama for protecting this place that is so important to tribes that have lived here since time immemorial, and to the wildlife that thrives here,” said Paul Beaudet, executive director of the Wilburforce Foundation. “It is an honor to help support the tribes and local communities in their continued, respectful use of the lands, waters, and natural wonder of Bears Ears National Monument.”

“President Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears National Monument is a beautiful and hopeful recognition of the enduring tribal ties to these lands,” said Grand Canyon Trust Executive Director Bill Hedden. “To realize the full promise of blending modern science and indigenous wisdom it is critical that the members of the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition have the resources to participate fully with federal agencies in developing the monument management plans. We are honored to provide funds to assist that process.”

LandWhitner Chase