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Bears Ears Advocates Accuse Opponents of ‘Dirty Tricks’

Advocates for designating the Bears Ears region of Utah as a national monument say opponents are using “dirty tricks” to turn residents of the area against the project. (USGS/Wikimedia Commons)
Advocates for designating the Bears Ears region of Utah as a national monument say opponents are using “dirty tricks” to turn residents of the area against the project. (USGS/Wikimedia Commons)
June 14, 2016

MONTICELLO, Utah - Groups advocating national monument status for the Bears Ears region of Utah say opponents are using false information and veiled threats to intimidate local residents.

Native American and conservation groups say a well-funded campaign in Southeastern Utah is posting forged federal documents on bulletin boards at stores, gas stations and other public places and spreading rumors of violence if the area is granted monument status.

Gavin Noyes, executive director for the advocacy group Utah Diné Bikéyah, says the opposition is using illegal scare tactics.

"Yeah, definitely some dirty tricks," he says. "It crosses some criminal lines for impersonating federal officials and tribal officials. My board member's taken it to the local police department and I don't know what the Department of Interior is doing with somebody impersonating Secretary [Sally] Jewell."

A coalition of Native American tribes is asking President Obama to designate Bears Ears as a national monument to protect it from the looting of artifacts.

Several groups have publicly stated opposition to the Bears Ears movement, but none are taking credit for the document postings or similar activities.

Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature OK'd $14 million in taxpayer funds to sue the federal government for state control of Utah's public lands. Noyes suspects some of that money could secretly be funding the Bears Ears opposition.

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has said he warned Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that monument status for Bears Ears area would be seen as a federal overreach that could incite an armed takeover like the one in Oregon in January.

Greg Zimmerman, deputy director with the Center for Western Priorities, criticized Hatch for not condemning threats of violence.

"It is deeply troubling that there are U.S. senators out there who are, rather than excoriating violent acts on public lands, are almost suggesting that it would be acceptable," says Zimmerman.

The Utah Tribal Leaders Association voted six-to-one last week to reiterate its strong support for the creation of a Bears Ears National Monument.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT