“After serving our great nation in Iraq and Afghanistan I feel like the same freedoms and rights are being threatened.”
Casey’s wife, Sasha shares his opinions on the national monument. They are both very much aware of the overcrowding and land damage in the rest of the state and do not wish for that to happen in the places they hold so dear. Sasha says, ” Ever since I was a little girl, I loved the mountains. My parents and grandparents taught me to respect the land. I have done the same with my kids. I want them to experience the same things as me. I do not want the National Monument. It will take away our freedoms.”
“I love the mountains and I like to see all the animals.”
– Tayzia Singer
6 years old
US Veteran, Casey Singer feels that the freedoms he fought for in the military are now the same freedoms that are being threatened by own over government saying, “The areas that I go to enjoy our privileges are included in the 1.35 million acres. After serving our great nation in Iraq and Afghanistan I feel like the same freedoms and rights are being threatened.
With a National Monument, I feel I will NOT be able to experience and enjoy our own area, my son and daughter will not be able to walk the same canyons, bluffs, and meadows that I have. There is a first-hand experience that you cannot feel in a photograph.
This land is an outlet for stress. No National Monument!”
This family is among many who feel that the monument will harm the land and the people a lot more than help it. They have done their research and know that even if the community makes money for overwhelming tourism, it can never replace what we have.
While we are from Stansbury Park, UT, we believe people should be able to use the land.
We are a family of four who loves to play outdoors and spend time with family. We try to enjoy the land that is still available for us to camp and have fun on. We should be able to use the land how we want.
We’ve lived in San Juan County for five years now, well going on five years. We really enjoy this place, the Bears Ears area. Part of the reason we enjoy it is because the people that we live around and talk with, they’ve grown up loving it and taking care of it. So, they wanted to show it off to us.
As a small town doctor, I get to talk with a lot of people who live in this area. I have yet to visited with anyone in this area, who supports the national monument.”
– Kelly Jeppesen
They don’t show it off in a bad way, I haven’t seen anybody trying to deface the land, none of the locals that I’ve been hiking with are interested in pushing down rocks on ruins or picking up artifacts. I know that that’s been done in the past and it’s regretful that that has been done but I don’t think the way to avoid that in the future is to close it off to the public.
I think that a better way to protect the land that we love is to have people running around in it who learn how to respect it. And you can instill a love of the land by camping in it, you can instill love in the land by just learning about other cultures and being good to each other.
I understand that there’s some concerns about it being holy ground to the native people of the area. And while I respect that I think it’s also holy ground to so many of the people who have raised their families in this area.
We love this area. And we respect the area and I don’t think that a monument would make it better.”
– Andrea Jeppesen
As a small town doctor, I get to talk with a lot of people who live in this area. I have not visited with anyone in this area who supports the national monument. The rich, the poor, Caucasian or Native American, the fifth-generation or first-generation resident. They all want to have the opportunity to enjoy this land without oversight. All the people who live here oppose the monument. This land is our land, this land is my land. This land was made for you and me.
JR Kemner’s family came here in the 1880s. They have farmed, ranched, and were good stewards.
I guess we’ve been spoiled to enjoy this land for free.”
JR and Laura met over 24 years ago and one of their many dates, before they got married, was to drive around in these hills [the now Bears Ears National Monument]. Over the next 24 years they’ve been here to introduce each of their kids to Blue Mountain.
The last time Paul and Diane Kemner’s kids and grandkids were all together was up here on Blue Mountain. They are both now gone but would be saddened if they could see what was happening to this land. This land is sacred to more than just the Native Americans.
I guess we’ve been spoiled to enjoy this land for free. To come up here to get away, to fish in Dry Wash, to enjoy the scene on the Causeway. The idea of having to share this with the world, watching it fill up with people is upsetting. Where will we go not to “get away from it all”?
I am a first generation rancher here in San Juan County. My wife and I were both born and raised in Blanding. We bought our ranch 15 years ago after the previous owner passed away and we have been living the dream since then. We raise our cattle on mostly Forest Service and BLM allotments, along with state lands and some private ground.
I have become increasingly concerned about the future of my livelihood as the ideas concerning the lands bill and potential Bears Ears National Monument designations have come to the forefront. Recently there has been a huge movement and increased interest among some members of Native American tribes calling for more protection and preservation of lands here in our county.
“I have become increasingly concerned about the future of my livelihood…”
One casual observation is that these lands have suddenly become conveniently “sacred” and there is a strong indication that it is due to a certain amount of outside influence from NGO’s. I have also noticed that there is a great amount of misinformation being shared about how much these lands are currently being negatively impacted. They held a “gathering” last summer as well as this summer near the Bears Ears to draw attention to their cause that was attended by some high level government officials.
For some reason I don’t think a meeting of that kind would have been granted with me or other opponents of the monument if it had been requested. I bring this up because both “gatherings” were held in the middle of one of the pastures on my Forest Service allotment. I run cattle on the Bears Ears in the summer and on Cedar Mesa in the winter and I love these areas. These areas have played an integral part in the ranching history here in San Juan County for many, many decades.
I have many goals as a rancher such as; raising a quality food product for an ever growing and hungry population, ensuring a quality life for my livestock, taking care of my family, teaching my children the value of work, allowing others the experience of the western lifestyle, etc. The most important goal that I have is taking care of the land, and that is very important to me.
As far as an economical impact, although the size of my herd is not large compared to what other ranchers have around here, I feel like my contribution to our local economy is significant. In 2014, I spent over $125,000 here in San Juan County. That does not include payments to any government entity or any loan payments made. That amounts to a little under $500 per cow that goes back into the local economy that I would like to continue to be able to contribute.
“The most important goal that I have is taking care of the land, and that is very important to me.”
I actually have more to say about these things, but these are the basics. I don’t put myself out there too much, but I wanted to make sure my voice is being heard since I have a vested interest in the outcome of what is going on here. My message can be summed up quite simply and easily. The management practices that are in place for the areas we ranch on are working well and that is why these lands are so beautiful, pristine, and productive and I want my ability to continue ranching and taking care of these lands to be protected.
It is foreign to many to think that the residents of San Juan County rely on the land to make a living. But, the facts are, the people who choose to live in this rugged area choose to live here because of the land. And because of that, many use that land, the land that they love, to survive.
We have compiled a list of occupations that will suffer at the hands of the monument designation. Some occupations many do not approve of, and some say these occupations will be replaced with tourism jobs. But should the federal government be allowed to dictate the type of jobs allowed in the Bears Ears National Monument area? Should bureaucrats living thousands of miles away be able to tell you which job you get to have?
The biggest occupational debate is cattle.
Cattlemen are probably the largest group who rely the most on the land within the monument to make a living. There are currently 43 grazing allotments within the national monument. While cattle ranching is not a large industry on a national economics scale, it is important to local economies.
Cattle ranchers provide local jobs, purchase most of their goods locally, and contribute to a tax base for local infrastructure. They also pay fees to use public lands, contributing to land improvements.
Cattle provide a natural fertilizer for the land, helping promote a healthy plant life. Cattle also reduce the risk of forest fire by keeping the vegetation from growing out of control. While an overgrown field of grass and flowers may look beautiful to you, come fall, when all that plant life dies, it only takes one stray spark to ignite the entire area.
It has been hypothesized that without land management by ranchers the value of natural resources would decrease. The Forest Service and the BLM receive 45-50% of their project funding from grazing fees; that includes projects such wildlife habitat, archeological site preservation, and watershed enhancements (1).
How does a monument designation risk cattlemen jobs?
Prior to President Clinton’s administration, grazing rights in national monuments and parks were preserved.
President Clinton changed that. Sometimes, the monument rules allowed ranching to continue without any change. Sometimes, the language was vague and gave the Secretary of the Interior power to retire the permits. This is the case with Bears Ears National Monument. This was also the case in the establishment of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. With that monument, the language also specified that if any permits were voluntarily retired, they would not be reallocated. (2)
A fine example of what the local community in the Bears Ears area is facing is what happened in Great Basin National Park. With the creation of the Great Basin National Park in 1986, grazing was promised to continue indefinitely. However, complaints from park-goers over cattle grazing on the land eventually led to the buy-out of permits from cattle ranchers in the area. (4)
As we wait for the official monument policies and procedures to be written (which this can take up to five years), we are very aware that these are some of the possibilities that cattlemen in San Juan County will face.
What Will Happen
Local ranchers have already been told by radical environmental groups that they do not want to see any cattle on the Bears Ears National Monument. In Grand Staircase Escalante cattle permits were promised to be honored. They were not. Cattlemen in the area report grazing allotments reduced by up to 60%. Others have been allowed allotments but are not allowed the hired hands that they need to maintain fences and manage herds.
Authorized grazing within BLM managed lands has dropped by nearly 50% since 1950 but the beef consumption in the USA continues to rise. BLM employees and environmentalists alike speak to the ultimate goal of removing all cattle from local land, despite the benefits of grazing allotments. It is no different for San Juan County.
As more control and decision-making over multi-land use is taken from the local residents and given to the Department of Interior, a department over 2000 miles away, cattlemen are not being heard. Groups such as Friends of Cedar Mesa, Great Old Broads, SUWA, and even employees of the BLM are fighting to remove cattle from all public lands.
While radical environmentalist lobby politicians and bring in millions of dollars to achieve their goals, cattle ranchers are out in the wildness, raising cattle, building fences, maintaining land, and earning a living. They live and breathe this land. If they do not treat it right, they lose everything they have worked towards their entire lives. Now it can also be taken away without a moment’s notice as decisions are being made for cattle ranchers and not with them.
Other jobs that are at risk without access to the land include:
Construction companies with gravel pits
There are fewer business owners and employees in these categories, but their livelihoods are just as important than any one else’s. Decisions made within the local landscape are stripped from local governments or entirely ignored, as with the monument designation itself. This travesty puts all of these jobs at risk. They will continue to be at risk as long as the monument remains in place and the voices of the local officials and people are silenced.
There are businesses that will suffer on a secondary level. For instance, farmers who grow hay will loose the cattle ranchers who are forced to graze their cattle elsewhere. Business like this include:
School teachers & advisors
Local hardware stores
Butcher ShopsWhen did it become okay to take away livelihoods? When did it become okay to force people out of their profession? Jobs will be lost. Homes will be lost.
Over 125 parcels of land within the newly designated monument, amounting to over 8,000 acres, are SITLA lands—the lands that generate education funding. That number is small when compared to the 1.35 million acres of The Bears Ears National Monument but, it is huge when we consider our children’s education.
What are SITLA lands?
SITLA (School Institutional Trust Lands Administration) lands are parcels of land throughout Utah that were granted to Utah by Congress in 1896. These lands have always been State lands, set aside specifically to generate money for public schools and higher education.
Growth of the Permanent School Fund went from $50 million to just over $2 billion in only 20 years. Only 6% of the state’s acreage is SITLA land. 96% of the money generated from these lands goes to public schools.
Generated money within these SITLA lands comes through oil, gas, and mineral leases, rent, and royalties. This includes leasing to ranchers and farmers for livestock grazing and crops. Recently, a portion of SITLA land that held significant historical value for local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was sold to a group dedicated to preserving that land and its history for youth groups to learn from for generations, generating another $500,000 for local schools.
SITLA lands have always been private lands. Selling private land to a private group, helping further our children’s education, fits precisely within the mission of SITLA. Local schools also continue to benefit from sold parcels through property taxes.
They state that “local officials are in the best position to identify threats and solutions for funding education while protecting assets to ensure continued tax revenue.” In other words, local officials have more of an incentive to truly protect SITLA lands. If you want continued revenue from something, you do not destroy it. A farmer does not destroy his land by cultivating it. He grooms it, protects it, and lets it rest so that he can continue to use the land for generations to come. That is likewise the aim with our SITLA lands.
“The Utah School Boards Association, represents all 41 public school districts in
Utah and does hereby declare opposition
to the designation of the 1.9 million acres
as a National Monument.”
-Utah School Board Association
The state will have a chance to trade their SITLA lands within the monument for other BLM land. However, if monuments keep being created at the present rate, there will eventually be no more land for Utah to choose from.
SITLA land is also not public land. SITLA is usually managed as private land. Utah would be forced to take over 8000 acres of public land from another community in an effort to make up for the loss of their land in San Juan County, land that has been providing for our children’s education for decades.
Money from SITLA lands allows schools to have funds for things that they are not able to pay for out of the regular public school budget. Click here to learn more about how STILA manages the money they generate. Many have said that SITLA lands are selling out our futures for profit. But, our children are our future. Their education is what will help guide the next generation.