Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah is updating the resource management plan, the overarching plan that will direct the future of the monument for decades. This plan will show which areas are off limits to certain users including mining, recreation, grazing, camping, hiking, target shooting, and wood gathering among others. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service have given 5 alternatives of management options that have different degrees and areas of restrictions and closures.

A tool that is becoming more and more common that these agencies are using to restrict use is the designation of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, also known as ACEC’s. ACEC designations in Bears Ears could lead to restrictions on over 1 million acres. Help us oppose these designations.

Historically, these designations have been used as justifications to close roads even though the BLM has previously said that roads can still be allowed within an ACEC. Recently the BLM published the new Conservation and Landscape Health rule which would prioritize designating ACEC’s on public lands however this rule was not finalized before they released the draft proposals for Bears Ears. A new type of ACEC designation is being proposed in Bears Ears though, an Aquatic ACEC. John’s Canyon and the Aquifer Protection ACEC are the ACEC’s that have been nominated, not yet designated. Alternative D and E as you can see below would designate the ACEC’s, and the table shows how much acreage would be included. Alternative E is the agencies preferred alternative.

John’s Canyon north of San Juan River, includes Cedar Mesa and Grand Gulch. Recreation and other uses would be limited.

The water within Bears Ears is already protected under numerous laws and acts such as the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Clean Water Act and NEPA. Designating over a million acres as an ACEC is unjustified and will be used to justify more and more closures and restrictions.