“Leave it as it is,” President Teddy Roosevelt told the crowd on May 6, 1903, while overlooking the Grand Canyon. “You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American, if he can travel at all, should see.”

These words can also be said of the Bears Ears National Monument, in San Juan County, Utah – land that desperately needs support and preservation. Encompassing 1.35 million acres, the park was established by another President—Barack Obama—113 years later using the powers granted to him under the Antiquities Act.

The Bears Ears designation was unique and historic: it is the first national monument to grow out of the thinking, study, support, and political power of Native American nations. A section of southeast Utah that is sparsely populated and that contains more than 100,000 Native American sites, Bears Ears is unquestionably one of the most extensive archaeological areas on Earth. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition was formed by five nations with contemporary and ancestral ties to the region—Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Zuni, and Ute Mountain Ute—to lobby for its historic designation. The Lewis Family Foundation provided $25,000 in support of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition to build capacity and generate the support needed to preserve the lands.

One year after the designation and a public review process that showed overwhelming support for the original boundaries and protections for Bears Ears, however, President Trump illegally reduced the Bears Ears National Monument. His proclamation cut the size of the monument by a staggering 85%, protecting only 200,000 acres and opening the remaining 1 million acres to the threat of mining and drilling.

The Friends of Cedar Mesa

The Friends of Cedar Mesa has worked since 2010 to ensure that public lands in San Juan County, with all their cultural and natural values, are respected and protected. To do this, the organization partners with the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation area to create local, regional, and national support for greater protection of Cedar Mesa through education, advocating for national designations, supporting smart local policy-making, and organizing research and volunteer service activities.

Bears Ears Visit with Respect Education Center

When the Trump administration made clear that it was going to dramatically reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument, the Friends of Cedar Mesa knew that was a strong signal that the government was not going to invest in the type of infrastructure that was needed to educate visitors in how to visit the area without damaging these highly sensitive archaeological sites. They launched an initiative to build an education center that would serve the purpose until a future administration created an official Visitors’ Center. The Lewis Family Foundation proudly funded $75,000 to support the purchase of a building to create the Bears Ears Visit with Respect Education Center. The building purchase was made possible by gifts from more than 3,000 donors from around the world.

This community-powered space was created to teach visitors from near and far the specifics of how to visit the cultural and natural spaces of Bears Ears National Monument respectfully. The Friends of Cedar Mesa are hoping to expand the Education Center by purchasing the adjacent building to provide housing for interns, storage, parking, and additional office space.

Your support to help educate visitors of the importance of this land could have an impact for generations to follow.