After decades of fighting for their ancestral lands, Native advocates share hope and relief.
Mint Images/Mint via ZUMA Wire
In June, federal and tribal officials signed an intergovernmental cooperative management agreement for Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. It followed a historic congressional hearing during which tribal leaders spoke to the House Natural Resources Committee about the potential value of Native co-management of federal lands.
Under the new agreement, the Bears Ears Commission, which is composed of five tribes—the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation—will work with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service “to provide consistent, effective, and collaborative management of the lands and resources” by “coordinating on land use planning and implementation, as well as the development of long-term resource management and programmatic goals.”
The agreement is an important step, but it is not without precedent: Four national parks are already co-managed by tribal nations—inspired in at least one instance by the success of Uluru-Kata Tjutu, which is co-managed by the Australian government and the land’s rightful Indigenous owners. Around 80 other agreements support collaborative relationships between the National Park Service and U.S. tribes. These have all served as test cases for Bears Ears, which could now become the touchstone for a more expansive network of co-management agreements between tribes and the federal government.