Bear Ears Buttes in Utah

Known as Bear Ears for the pair of purple buttes at the region’s center, the newly proclaimed 1.9 million-acre National Mounument will preserve a photographer’s checklist of high-desert drama: spires, bridges, canyons. Yet the region’s true distinction is not its topography, but its cultural significance; perhaps no place in America is as rich with ancient Native American sites as Bear Ears. In October 2015, a coalition of five Indian nations, including the Hopi, Ute, and Navajo, formally proposed the monument, attempting to preserve the parcel’s 100,000 archeological sites from ongoing looting and grave robbing. Last June, in a letter to President Obama, more than 700 archeologists endorsed the proposal, saying that looting of the area’s many ancient kivas and dwellings was continuing “at an alarming pace” and calling Bear Ears “America’s most significant unprotected cultural landscape.” President Obama designated Bear Ears Butte and Gold Buttes in Nevada as protected National monuments at the end of last month. The incoming Trump administration, along with the Republican-controlled congress, and Utah state officials, could mount a legal challenge against that designation. — By European Pressphoto Agency

Muddy water fills a small slot canyon in the Bear Ears National Monument near Fry Canyon, Utah, USA on Nov.12.
(Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

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