Encompassing 1.9 million acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Park Service, the Bears Ears area is the most significant unprotected cultural landscape in the United States. In addition to protecting traditional Native American land use and tens of thousands of cultural sites, a monument designation for Bears Ears would ensure the conservation of the area's diverse natural resources — including its waters, plant and animal life — and the outdoor recreation they support.
In particular, the lakes, streams and reservoirs in and around the Abajo Mountains west of Monticello, and the San Juan River running between Bluff and Lake Powell, offer a myriad of fishing opportunities. While Lake Powell itself would fall outside of the Bears Ears Monument, the lake's future depends on an abundant supply of fresh water flowing from its tributaries, including the San Juan River.
With its access to world-class fishing, Bears Ears is an important contributor to Utah's $12 billion outdoor recreation economy, which drives $856 million in state and local tax revenue and $3.6 billion in wages and salaries yearly and supports 122,000 direct Utah jobs. The most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed that fishing in Utah accounts for over $451 million in yearly spending alone.
The new monument would also have great potential to spur economic growth in Bluff and surrounding areas. A recent study from Headwaters Economics assessing the economic performance of counties adjacent to and containing national monuments — including Utah's own Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument west of the Bears Ears area — found that two-thirds of these communities (13 of 17) grew at the same or a faster pace compared to similar counties in their state.
National monument status for Bears Ears would help to safeguard our outdoor heritage and sporting traditions and the economic opportunities they support. But even more importantly, permanent protection would ensure that these pristine lands and waters remain healthy and accessible for our communities and future generations of Americans to enjoy.
I applaud Secretary Jewell, Undersecretary Bonnie, and other administration officials for coming to Utah to meet with stakeholders. I urge all Americans — and especially sportsmen and women — to raise their voices in support of permanent protection of this one-of-a kind place.
Dustin Carlson is a board member of American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) and partner of Green Drake Outdoors. AFFTA represents America's 4.5 million fly-fishing anglers and thousands of outfitters and guides. He lives in Sandy.