Utah Veterans ask President Obama to Protect Bears Ears as a National Monument

 ·  Vet Voice Foundation, Press Release

Salt Lake City, UT - Vet Voice Foundation (VVF) today released a letter from 247 veterans from the Four Corners states (UT, CO, NM, and AZ), including 35 Utah veterans, asking President Obama to protect the Bears Ears region of southeastern Utah as a National Monument. 

The designation of Bears Ears as a National Monument would protect 1.9 million acres of public lands, preserving more than 100,000 Native American cultural sites while also providing incredible recreation opportunities for visitors and important habitat for iconic American wildlife. 

The veterans’ letter also supports the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, a partnership of five sovereign Indian nations urging President Barrack Obama to take similar action regarding Bears Ears.  From the Code Talkers of World War II to the 42,000 tribal members who served in Vietnam, Native Americans have been a foundation of the U.S. Military fighting force.

For decades Native Americans have been calling for the protection of the Bears Ears region. This historically and culturally significant landscape is threatened and has suffered rampant looting, grave robbing, and destruction of historic villages, structures and rock art – all due to the lack of protection. 

The signers of the letter noted that “as military veterans, we have not forgotten the oath we swore to sacrifice ourselves to defend the lands we love. The commitment we feel from our service to defend the American way of life extends to the public lands that belong to all American citizens.” 

The letter goes on to say that “protected open spaces are also important to veterans reintegrating to civilian life. Research shows the solace of a personal experience in the outdoors has huge healing contributions to even the most severe mental health conditions. Our national public lands are a place to repair bonds with family and friends after long deployments.” 

“We urge President Obama to continue his important work of protecting some of America’s great wildlands and places of important cultural and historical significance,” said Garett Reppenhagen, VVF’s Rocky Mountain Director. “Proclaiming Bears Ears as a National Monument would honor the ancestral and contemporary Native American connections to this sacred region while also ensuring access to world class recreation opportunities and places veterans use to heal from the trauma of war.” 

 “I first discovered the Bears Ears area shortly after I left the air Force, and when I feel the need for restoration, I've been returning to it for almost half a century,” said Barry Bonifas of Salt Lake City, one of the veterans who signed the letter.  “I've also taken many relatives and friends there, including other veterans.  It is such a special and unique place that I can't remember anyone who hasn't been amazed and astounded by this enormous area of beautiful mesas and canyons filled with ruins and art.  It has to be better protected for the many tribes who consider it their original home, and the ongoing looting and vandalism has to be stopped. The time is now.” 

A copy of the letter can be found on line at:  http://www.vetvoicefoundation.org/VVF_Bears-Ears_Letter_FINAL_052616.pdf