In new ad campaign, tribal coalition urges Biden to ‘restore and expand’ Bears Ears monument

An ad appears in Utah and D.C. newspapers, advising the president that ‘the time to act is now.’

A group of five tribes are urging President Joe Biden to act on his “promise to restore the Bears Ears National Monument” with an ad campaign playing both in Utah and Washington, D.C.

The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition placed a full-page ads Sunday in The Salt Lake Tribune, and will run a full-page wrap this Wednesday and Thursday in editions of The Washington Post, the coalition said in a news release. The coalition did not say how much the campaign cost, but that it was in the six-figure range.

According to the ad, the coalition’s leaders “represent the sovereign Indigenous nations” of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, and Zuni Tribe.

The ads both begin “Mr. President,” and thank Biden “for your Administration’s sincere commitment to honoring our cultures, acknowledging our original place in this country that is now our shared home, as well as to preserving the environment and seeking justice.”

The Bears Ears area, the leaders say in the ad, “is our homeland. It always has been and still is. The culture is everywhere. The canyons and forests hold many of our stories. Family gatherings, dances, and ceremonies are held at special places within Bears Ears. People go to Bears Ears to gather roots, berries, firewood, piñon nuts, weaving materials, and medicines. We go for healing. Our ancestors are buried there, and we can hear their songs and prayers on every mesa and in every canyon.”

The ad ends with three declarative sentences: “Our Tribes speak with one voice. The time to act is now. Restore and expand Bears Ears National Monument.”

President Barack Obama declared the area in San Juan County a national monument in late 2016, less than a month before he left office. Obama set the monument’s size at 1,351,849 acres.

Less than a year later, Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, issued an executive order to reduce the monument by 85%, down to 201,876 acres. Three lawsuits were filed within days, and later consolidated, arguing that presidents can establish monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906 — but that only Congress can revoke or modify a national monument.

After Biden took office on Jan. 20, a district court placed a stay on proceedings in the lawsuit, at the Biden administration’s request, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the plantiffs.

Biden, on his first day in office, signed an executive order to have his Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland, perform an onsite review process of both Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument, which also was reduced under Trump’s order.

Haaland, the first Native American to serve in a president’s cabinet, visited Utah in April as part of that review. She met with Gov. Spencer Cox and Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, prayed with tribal leaders, and encountered protesters both supporting and opposing the monuments. “It’s important that the president get this right,” Haaland said at the time.