Puebloan granary in the Bears Ears National Monument

Bears Ears National Monument

The new 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah protects one of most significant cultural landscapes in the United States, with thousands of archaeological sites and important areas of spiritual significance. Abundant rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, ceremonial kivas, and countless other artifacts provide an extraordinary archaeological and cultural record, all surrounded by a dramatic backdrop of deep sandstone canyons, desert mesas, and forested highlands and the monument’s namesake twin buttes. These lands are sacred to many Native American tribes today, who use the lands for ceremonies, collecting medicinal and edible plants, and gathering materials for crafting baskets and footwear. Their recommendations will ensure management decisions reflect tribal expertise and traditional and historical knowledge.

Archaeology

Clovis people hunted among the cliffs and canyons of Cedar Mesa as early as 13,000 years ago, leaving behind tools and projectile points in places like the Lime Ridge Clovis Site, one of the oldest known archaeological sites in Utah. Archaeologists believe that these early people hunted mammoths, ground sloths, and other now-extinct megafauna, a narrative echoed by native creation stories. Hunters and gatherers continued to live in this region in the Archaic Period, with sites dating as far back as 8,500 years ago.

Ancestral Puebloans followed, beginning to occupy the area at least 2,500 years ago, leaving behind items from their daily life such as baskets, pottery, and weapons. These early farmers of Basketmaker II, and III and builders of Pueblo I, II and III left their marks on the land. The remains of single family dwellings, granaries, kivas, towers, and large villages and roads linking them together reveal a complex cultural history. "Moki steps," hand and toe holds carved into steep canyon walls by the Ancestral Puebloans, illustrate the early people's ingenuity and perseverance and are still used today to access dwellings along cliff walls.

Other, distinct cultures have thrived here as well -- the Fremont People, Numic- and Athabaskan-speaking hunter-gatherers, and Utes and Navajos. Resources such as the Doll House Ruin in Dark Canyon Wilderness Area and the Moon House Ruin on Cedar Mesa allow visitors to marvel at artistry and architecture that have withstood thousands of seasons in this harsh climate.

The area's petroglyphs and pictographs capture the imagination with images dating back at least 5,000 years and spanning a range of styles and traditions. From life-size ghostlike figures that defy categorization, to the more literal depictions of bighorn sheep, birds, and lizards, these drawings enable us to feel the humanity of these ancient artists. The Indian Creek area contains spectacular rock art, including hundreds of petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock.

Visitors to Bears Ears can also discover more recent rock art left by the Ute, Navajo, and Paiute peoples. It is also the less visible sites, however -- those that supported the food gathering, subsistence and ceremony of daily life -- that tell the story of the people who lived here. Historic remnants of Native American sheep-herding and farming are scattered throughout the area, and pottery and Navajo hogans record the lifeways of native peoples in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Collection of Forest Products

Geology

For long periods over 300 million years ago, these lands were inundated by tropical seas and hosted thriving coral reefs. These seas infused the area's black rock shale with salts as they receded. Later, the lands were bucked upwards multiple times by the Monument Upwarp, and near-volcanoes punched up through the rock, leaving their marks on the landscape without reaching the surface. In the sandstone of Cedar Mesa, fossil evidence has revealed large, mammal-like reptiles that burrowed into the sand to survive the blistering heat of the end of the Permian Period, when the region was dominated by a seaside desert. Later, in the Late Triassic Period more than 200 million years ago, seasonal monsoons flooded an ancient river system that fed a vast desert here.

Grazing

The BLM and the USFS will continue to grant grazing permits and leases under the proclamation.

Hunting and Fishing

The designation allows for public access, such as for hunting and fishing, which continue to be managed by the State of Utah.

Land Units

The total acreage under federal management is approximately 1.35 million acres. Over 380,000 acres of the federal lands within the boundaries are currently managed by the BLM as 11 Wilderness Study Areas, natural lands without roads which provide outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation. Significant portions (totaling 29,000 acres) of the BLM-managed part of the monument are also currently managed as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, which are managed for the protection of their outstanding cultural, natural, and scenic values. The BLMmanaged part of the monument also contains nine Special Recreation Management Areas, which are managed for their recreation opportunities. The USFS administers the 46,000-acre Dark Canyon Wilderness just north of the Bears Ears formation, as well as the Cliff Dwellers Pasture Research Natural Area.

Paleontology

Many sites, such as Arch Canyon, are teeming with fossils, and research conducted in the Bears Ears area is revealing new insights into the transition of vertebrate life from reptiles to mammals and from sea to land. Numerous ray-finned fish fossils from the Permian Period have been discovered, along with other late Paleozoic Era fossils, including giant amphibians, synapsid reptiles, and important plant fossils. Fossilized traces of marine and aquatic creatures such as clams, crayfish, fish, and aquatic reptiles have been found in Indian Creek's Chinle Formation, dating to the Triassic Period, and phytosaur and dinosaur fossils from the same period have been found along Comb Ridge. Paleontologists have identified new species of plant-eating crocodile-like reptiles and mass graves of lumbering sauropods, along with metoposaurus, crocodiles, and other dinosaur fossils. Fossilized trackways of early tetrapods can be seen in the Valley of the Gods and in Indian Creek, where paleontologists have also discovered exceptional examples of fossilized ferns, horsetails, and cycads. The Chinle Formation and the Wingate, Kayenta, and Navajo Formations above it provide one of the best continuous rock records of the Triassic-Jurassic transition in the world, crucial to understanding how dinosaurs dominated terrestrial ecosystems and how our mammalian ancestors evolved. In Pleistocene Epoch sediments, scientists have found traces of mammoths, short-faced bears, ground sloths, primates, and camels.

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Quick Facts

Created: December 28, 2016

Size: 1,351,849 acres

Coordinates: 37.70°N 109.92°W

Contact Us

Monticello Field Office
365 North Main
P.O. Box 7
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435-587-1500
Fax: 435-587-1518
Email: utmtmail@blm.gov