Published: Dec. 30, 2016

Professor Charles WilkinsonOn Wed., Dec. 28, 2016, President Barack Obama announced the designation of Bears Ears National Monument, a measure conceived in part by Professor Charles Wilkinson. The president’s designation will protect approximately 1.35 million acres of federal land surrounding the Bears Ears Buttes in southeastern Utah.

Five tribes—the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Uintah and Ouray Ute, and Zuni—formally organized the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition in July 2015. Since then, he has served on a pro bono basis as senior advisor to the tribes. Wilkinson was one of the main architects behind the coalition’s overall strategy, including the October 2015 proposal to Obama for the creation of Bears Ears National Monument.

“This is the first national monument ever brought forth by tribes,” Wilkinson said. “Tribes have signed off, usually as minor signatories on other monument proposals, but this is the first time they’ve taken the lead. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is the most amazing grassroots coalition I’ve ever seen.”

One of the most noteworthy provisions in the presidential proclamation is the unprecedented notion that tribes will engage with federal agencies in collaborative management at Bears Ears.

The five tribes will now have a seat at the table in future decision-making at the new national monument, as the proclamation states that one elected officer from each of the tribes will serve on the Bears Ears Commission “to provide guidance and recommendations on the development and implementation of management plans and on management of the monument.”

Wilkinson has a long history of working on the Colorado Plateau. He is a member of the Grand Canyon Trust Board of Trustees, author of the book Fire on the Plateau, and drafted the presidential proclamation creating the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996.

Read Obama’s full statement on the designation of Bears Ears National Monument and Gold Butte National Monument.

Professor Wilkinson's lecture “The Bears Ears National Monument:  A Breakthrough for Tribal-Federal Collaboration Management on Federal Public Lands,” is Feb. 14 from noon- 1:00 p.m. in the Wittemyer Courtroom, with overflow in Room 204.

Photo by Tim Peterson.