My friend Leonard Lee works in the oil industry across San Juan County, Utah, both on and off the Navajo Nation. He oversees oil and gas wells and the crews who work them.
So it may surprise you that Leonard is also the Vice-Chairman of a Native American organization that intends to protect 1.9 million acres of land as a national conservation area or national monument in San Juan County, Utah.
The Bears Ears proposal was developed by Diné leaders like Leonard who were asked by U.S. Senator Bennett in 2010 if they had an opinion on public lands management. Never having been asked before, Navajo elders began telling stories. Hunters, gatherers and medicine men worked with conservation scientists to draw culturally important and sacred places onto maps. At the same time, spiritual leaders took their long-buried hopes and offered them to the winds as prayers for a place we call Bears Ears.
Above: Cedar Mesa in Southeast Utah is one area that would be protected by the Bears Ears proposal. Photo: Josh Ewing