Agreement Formalizes Five Tribes As Co-Managers Of Bears Ears National Monument

At a signing ceremony on Saturday, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the five Tribes of the Bears Ears Commission formalized and celebrated their partnership for co-management of the Bears Ears National Monument.

After signing the cooperative agreement formally recognizing their working relationship, the parties travelled to Highway 261 to unveil the Bears Ears National Monument sign, which includes insignias of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni.

“We are so pleased to celebrate this unique partnership between Tribal Nations and federal agencies to manage and protect the remarkable and sacred Bears Ears landscape,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “This is an important step as we move forward together to ensure that Tribal expertise and traditional perspectives remain at the forefront of our joint decision-making for the Bears Ears National Monument. This type of true co-management will serve as a model for our work to honor the nation-to-nation relationship in the future.”

“It’s an honor for the Department of Agriculture to sign this one-of-a-kind cooperative agreement,” said USDA’s Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Homer Wilkes. “This agreement outlines a common vision for management of Bear Ears National Monument and protection of these sacred lands that are important to so many.”

“Today, instead of being removed from a landscape to make way for a public park, we are being invited back to our ancestral homelands to help repair them and plan for a resilient future. We are being asked to apply our traditional knowledge to both the natural and human-caused ecological challenges, drought, erosion, visitation, etc.,” said Bears Ears Commission Co-Chair and Lieutenant Governor of Zuni Pueblo Carleton Bowekaty. “What can be a better avenue of restorative justice than giving Tribes the opportunity to participate in the management of lands their ancestors were removed from?” 

To support the work that the five Tribes will perform under this agreement and through their representatives on the Bears Ears Commission, the BLM and U.S. Forest Service also announced that they will provide resources to each Tribe through a separate process.

On October 8, 2021, President Biden issued Proclamation 10285, which restored the Bears Ears National Monument, and recognized the importance of knowledge of Tribal Nations in managing the monument by re-constituting the Bears Ears Commission as established by President Obama in 2016, consisting of one elected officer each from the five Tribes.

The BLM and the U.S. Forest Service jointly manage the monument and will prepare a management plan for federal lands within the 1.36 million-acre boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument working cooperatively with the Tribal members of the Bears Ears Commission to protect and restore the monument objects and values.

Bears Ears National Monument has a rich cultural heritage and is sacred to many Native American Tribes who rely on these lands for traditional and ceremonial uses. There are also world-class opportunities for scenic driving, photography, rock climbing, hiking, biking, camping, paleontological exploration, and wildlife viewing. Learn more at

The agreement says:

“The Tribal Nations that make up the Bears Ears Commission and the Federal agencies that are charged with administration of the monument each serve important roles in the planning, management, conservation, restoration, and protection of the sacred lands within the Bears Ears monument, as well as in the protection of ceremonies, rituals, and traditional uses that are part of the Tribal Nations’ way of life on these lands since time immemorial. Tribal Nations, and particularly Tribal Elders, have important knowledge, local expertise, and an understanding of the spiritual significance of the Bears Ears region beyond the physical environment and is critical to inform the BLM and USFS planning processes and management of monument objects. As described in Proclamation 10285, the Bears Ears is both a cultural living space for Tribal members- holding the history of their traditions and cultural practices- and a location that is integral to their ceremonial practices and cultural traditions, as well as other activities and rituals. The Bears Ears is a living landscape that provides opportunities for Elders to convey to younger generations the stories, traditions, and practices of their people; to help them understand where they came from, who they are, and how to live. The landscape has been continually used by members of Tribal Nations since time immemorial to heal, practice their spirituality, pray, rejuvenate, and connect with their history. This agreement will serve, in part, to facilitate communication and understanding between the Tribal Nations and the Federal land managers to better protect ceremonial and traditional activities within the monument, as well as to preserve and integrate traditional knowledge of the region and apply that knowledge to inform Federal land management decisions.

“This Cooperative Agreement is made and entered into between the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni to implement the direction in the Proclamation that requires the BLM and USFS to obtain input from the Commission into the development and implementation ofthe monument management plan.

“Further, the purpose of this Cooperative Agreement is to facilitate coordination and cooperative management of the Federal lands within the Bears Ears, for purposes of implementing the Proclamation and to provide consistent, effective, and collaborative management of the lands and resources.”

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