Celebrate Cedar Mesa!
Over 300 people came together in Bluff, UT on the weekend of March 3-5, 2017 for the 6th Annual “Celebrate Cedar Mesa”. This year was a special celebration because Bears Ears National Monument had just been designated. The attendees were hyper-activated as members of the Friends of Cedar Mesa to support the new monument. They had worked over the past several years with other organizations, including a new, unique, tribal coalition, to make sure the monument got the designation it deserved. Now, with a new administration in Washington, and a less than supportive Utah state legislature, the monument was under attack – facing either possible repeal or a reduction in size.
Our own Friends’ member, Mike Hoogendyk, traveled to the celebration in Bluff to participate in a panel discussion entitled, “Debunking Monumental Myths”. The purpose of the panel was to counter myths being promoted in opposition to the monument and to support the continuation of the monument as designated by President Obama under the Antiquities Act. That act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Roosevelt on June 8, 1906. Under this law, the President has the authority to create national monuments to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features.
The most egregious myths insinuated that the establishment of the monument was a Federal land grab, that the public would have to pay to enter the monument, and that grazing, hunting, fishing, hiking and camping would be curtailed or restricted. Mike was able to show, with examples from Agua Fria National Monument, how that was simply not the truth. The land that became a part of Bears Ears was already federally owned and was being managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. He and others were also able to reassure the public that the actual Presidential Monument Proclamation specifically protected the public’s rights in these areas and that grazing, hunting, fishing and hiking would continue to be allowed pretty much as they always had been. To the extent that the new monument had private or state in-holdings, the examples of how that land was treated at AFNM were reassuring to others in the audience.
The funniest myth, one of the favorites for most people familiar with existing monuments, is the myth that is so prevalent among people who pull off the highway for the first time at one of the entrances to a national monument. They all want to know, “Where is the monument?” They actually are expecting to encounter a great big marble obelisk with a bronze plaque on the front in commemoration of some historical event. What they find instead is a wonderful, scenic, wide expanse of land open to outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.