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Visit With Respect

In Bears Ears National Monument, evidence of those who once inhabited the vast canyons and mesa-tops is everywhere: there are more than 100,000 documented cultural sites within the national monument’s boundaries, making the region one of the most extensive archeological areas on earth. Petroglyphs, pottery sherds, ancestral cliff dwellings and structures remind visitors of not only those who walked these lands before us, but the sanctity of this living, cultural landscape.

As visitors to this landscape, it is our responsibility to preserve these cultural sites both out of respect to the region’s Tribes and Pueblos, who trace their ancestry here, and for all visitors who come next. To ensure the protection of this landscape and all that it holds, it is essential that all who step foot in the Bears Ears learn to Visit with Respect.

History of Bears Ears National Monument The journey to protect Bears Ears long predates former President Obama’s 2016 proclamation, first designating Bears Ears National Monument. This proclamation followed years of advocacy to protect the landscape, and honored the request of a historic coalition of Tribes with ancestral ties to the land. In fact, it has been more than 150 years since the region was first brought to the attention of those in Washington D.C., when the father of the Antiquities Act, Edgar Lee Hewett included this landscape in a report submitted in 1904, which detailed the need for protections. As many of us know, Bears Ears came into the broader public’s eye when former President Trump reduced the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument through an unprecedented presidential proclamation. The proclamation reduced Bears Ears National Monument by 85%, opening the door to the resource-based extraction industry’s exploitation of the landscape and compromising stakeholders’ sacred relationships to the land. After nearly four years of uncertainty, President Biden reinstated the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument on October 8, 2021, ensuring that lands safeguarded in previous proclamations are once again protected. Despite this massive victory, Bears Ears National Monument remains threatened: because of the massive public attention drawn to the National Monument, we have seen a rapid increase in visitation and resulting damage to the region’s cultural and physical resources.   Visit with Respect While Friends of Cedar Mesa (FCM) believes that most visitors are well-intentioned, the cultural and physical landscapes are still at great risk of being loved to death. In response to this rapidly increasing visitation, Friends of Cedar Mesa and our Bears Ears Education Center have developed the Visit with Respect (VWR) campaign to encourage responsible visitation and curb the degradation of the landscape and all that it holds. The VWR campaign is a multifaceted education initiative to give these well-intentioned visitors the resources they need to visit Bears Ears National Monument without contributing to this degradation. The VWR campaign was designed with the intention of creating an easily and readily accessible resource that can be internalized as visitors spend time in the region. The campaign is built around icons, specific to each VWR principle, so that the messages are quickly digestible—no reading needed—and easy to remember. These icons and their messaging are directed specifically towards the appropriate visitation of the vulnerable cultural sites that are held sacred to so many of the region’s Tribes and Pueblos, and make this landscape so unique. For example, our newest VWR message, View Sites from a Distance, was created in response to feedback from our Indigenous partners. This tip represents a change in perspective as we think about these archaeological sites as sacred, living cultural places that hold deep meaning to members of Tribes and Pueblos. Standing outside of cultural sites not only adds protection against erosion and accidental damage, but honors the beliefs and practices of Indigenous people.  

View Sites From a Distance

 

Many Indigenous peoples consider this landscape sacred. Honor Tribal beliefs by not entering sites and enjoying places with room to breathe and contemplate. Here are a few more VWR tips, that are particularly essential to visiting the Bears Ears region, respectfully:  

 

Vandalism of petroglyphs and pictographs erases stories of ancient people and destroys the experience for future visitors. Vandalism is a growing concern as more and more visitors leave their mark on rocks and canyon walls. Leave rock imagery panels as you find them. Please don’t add or remove images.  

  Many places in the Bears Ears region allow dispersed camping. In order to preserve these places for the future, it is important to know where to camp. Camp on hardened surfaces away from cultural sites and water sources.

 

 

 

DON’T TOUCH ROCK IMAGERY OR MAKE YOUR OWN

 

Structures are easily damaged. Please refrain from touching, leaning, standing, or climbing on any structures. Though structures appear sturdy, these sites are hundreds of years old. Help them stand hundreds more by giving walls some space.  

  Pets are not allowed in some places. Know where dogs are allowed before you go. Always carry a leash so animals can enjoy the hike but remain outside of cultural sites.

 

 

 

 

STEER CLEAR OF WALLS

 

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