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Uphold Bears Ears National Monument. It’s our moral responsibility

Uphold Bears Ears National Monument. It’s our moral responsibility

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As Secretary Designee for the Department of the Interior Ryan Zinke prepares for a trip to visit Bears Ears National Monument, we send prayers for safe travel, spiritual guidance and inspiration. We believe that Bears Ears is a unique place full of profound cultural, spiritual, historical, recreational and ecological riches.

All of the major faith traditions including Christianity and Judaism lift up care for creation as religious imperatives. Stewardship of our public land and preservation of our historic and cultural heritage is an important part of our role as caretakers. The designation of Bears Ears is an example of such stewardship.

The monument is historic because it was led by a coalition of five Native American tribes — Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and the Ute Indian Tribe. All five tribes claim the Bears Ears area as their ancestral home and wish to offer their land stewardship gifts and expertise through co-management of the land with the Department of Interior.

The creation of Bears Ears National Monument highlights our ability to “love our neighbor” by allowing our tribal brothers and sisters sacred space to live their faith and supporting the work of justice for Native communities.

Bears Ears National Monument was designated under the Antiquities Act, an important tool in protecting the special places of God’s Creation where we play, pray, and learn. Since it became law in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents -- eight Republicans and eight Democrats -- starting with Theodore Roosevelt. The Act authorizes the President to proclaim “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” as national monuments.

Our responsibility to care for Creation is coupled with our duty to care for our neighbor, ensuring not only a healthy environment but enabling all of our children have equitable access to healthy recreation and the opportunity to find their own story in our park system. Bears Ears National Monument is truly a place where stewardship and love of neighbor are manifest.

We hope that Secretary Designee Zinke will join us in applauding this newly designated national monument, and uphold its protections. It is our moral responsibility.

Rev. Kendra Wilde, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and President-Elect, Montana Association of Christians

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