PERC’s Report on Tribal Co-Management for Bears Ears

In 2017, I posted this about former Interior Secretary Zinke asking for a legislative fix so Tribes could co-manage parts of Bears Ears. It should also appeal to the Biden Administration. I ran across this report on different approaches to Tribal co-management by PERC. When I read it, I wondered, “could this approach apply more broadly- to more federal lands (possibly everywhere, after some pilot approaches are tested?).


The original presidential proclamation creating the Bears Ears National Monument did not establish a formal tribal co-management requirement. There are several ways Congress and the Interior Department could now implement formal co-management. Two potential solutions, elements of which can be combined, are:

1) Create a trust to manage cultural and natural resources.
Such a trust would be a legal arrangement in which a board of trustees would manage the natural and cultural resources of Bears Ears while maintaining federal land ownership. The Interior Department and Congress would establish and enforce policies and regulations by which the trust is administered to ensure standards of performance. A formal written agreement would specify parameters for resource protection and use, such as the trust’s ability to limit visitation to fragile cultural and archaeological sites. The trust would then determine precisely how to meet these parameters.

The trust board could be composed of Native Americans and representatives of nearby communities to ensure tribal co-management and local input. To protect cultural areas and provide recreational opportunities, the trust could be structured so that some trustees have primary responsibility for tribal co-management of cultural resources while other trustees have primary responsibility for recreation or conservation.

A trust for Bears Ears could have a number of provisions, including:

*Give trustees autonomy to make decisions about how to manage and use resources while holding them accountable to meet federally determined goals for the trust, such as the types of resources to be protected and the need for financial self-sufficiency.
*Allow the trust to set, charge, and retain 100 percent of fees for access and resource use and to invest those fees as it sees it in conserving the monument.
*Require the trust to become financially self-sufficient after a predetermined period of time, perhaps 3 to 5 years, so the trust does not become dependent on Congress for funding and is able to make trade-offs between competing resource uses. Sources of finances can be a combination of fees generated by visitors, resource users, and charitable contributions.

2) Grant Native Americans legally binding or even exclusive rights to manage the region’s antiquities on federal land.

Currently, four national park units, including two national monuments, are jointly managed by the federal government and tribal partners and could serve as models.

Substantive Native American co-management could include a number of provisions such as:

*Allow Native Americans to control access and retain 100 percent of income generated from visitors. This would ensure antiquities sites are not overrun by tourists and would also provide resources to help protect sites from vandalism, theft, and inadvertent damage.
*Create a formal management structure for Native Americans, such as a trust, so that they have a substantive management role rather than the current advisory role.
* Formalize rights to historical Native American uses of the area, including grazing livestock, gathering wood for heating homes, gathering food and hunting game, harvesting plants for medicinal and ceremonial purposes, and performing religious ceremonies.
* Establish a fair and transparent process to sort out competing Native American claims to co-manage antiquities sites on federal land.

12 thoughts on “PERC’s Report on Tribal Co-Management for Bears Ears”

  1. Just pointing out the fact that PERC (originally called the Political Economy Research Center) is a right-wing private property rights think tank that gets funding for the Koch Foundation and Exxon Mobil.

  2. this report by PERC is astonishingly naive.

    the projected perception, that somehow native indians have cultural or race based skills to manage, let along act for conservation, of public lands is sheer ideology with no basis in recent of past history or fact. If, and I emphasize IF, federal employees, and more importantly , the public, are concerned about biodiversity viability, over industrialization, corrupted management, a pubic accountability system, public participation, and just fundamental ownership and control of todays public lands resting with the public, they are sticking their neck in a noose with this absurd agenda.

  3. Allowing native tribes to control access to federal lands and keep all access fees sounds like a terrible idea. Have you seen how much it costs to hike to Havasupai Falls lately? The tribe milks that for all it’s worth. That is their right given it is on tribal land. But unless you are a fan of blatant profiteering from access to federal lands and ensuring only the wealthy can ever visit them, giving tribes total control of admission fees sounds like a really bad plan.

    • Patrick, the way I look at it is that if I never had access to NF lands it would be OK because the potential to remedy the injustice of losing almost all of their lands would take precedence over my desire for a certain kind of recreation.

      Of course, it wouldn’t be as great a sacrifice for me as others because we have good local and State Parks. Clearly there would also have to be negotiated existing permits, access, etc.

      And if someone is going to kick me out, I’d rather it were Tribes than NGOs. In addition to the reparations element, Tribal Governments are elected by members; NGO boards tend to be well-off people or better (e.g. Wyss) and most of us have no ways of affecting their agendas. Why is it commonly talked about to given money reparations to descendants of enslaved people, but not to give land back to descendants of those forced from their land?

  4. Not a good idea, use the Kalispel Tribe as an example, they are bad players and are using the Tribal Protection Act to log old growth forests on our Federal Colville National Forests, all cultures have bad actors. Do not let this happen.

  5. I’ll tack this from the Washington Post on here because of the Interior Department transition team leader being someone with Native American interests and perspectives (but the whole list gives a bigger picture of the new administration).

    “Biden also named teams to lead the transition at federal agencies.

    Even as the Trump administration instructs senior leaders to block cooperation with Biden’s team resources, the president-elect’s camp moved ahead released a list of 500 experts in federal policy to prepare for Jan. 20. The group is a mix of activists, academics, think tank politicos, Obama alumni and officials from blue states.

    The head of the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency is Patrice Simms, an attorney at Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm that as sued the Trump administration dozens of times. His elevation is a sign of Biden’s desire to reinstitute rules rolled back by the Trump administration. He has also worked at both the EPA and Department of Justice.

    For the Interior Department team, the transition will be run by Kevin Washburn, a former assistant secretary of Indian affairs and a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma — a choice that suggests an emphasis on tribal issues at the department. He is currently dean at the University of Iowa College of Law.

    Arun Majumdar will head the transition for the Energy Department. Under Obama, he was the first director of the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, an incubator of research and development on novel energy technologies that draws bipartisan support in Congress. He is now at a professor at Stanford.

    And Cecilia Martinez, a well-respected environmental justice advocate, will lead the transition at the Council on Environmental Quality in a signal the Biden administration will focus on the disproportionate impact pollution has on people of color.”

    • Hmm. it was bad for Pendley to have sued the government, but it’s great for Simms to have sued the government. I wish people would just be honest- the standards are different for behavior when your favorite party is in power.
      PS I am not fan of Pendley, to me his appointment was a “sharp stick in the eye.”

      But with the emphasis on Native Americans, perhaps this is a time to review how federal agencies work with Tribes, especially around Federal Lands.

      “The group is a mix of activists, academics, think tank politicos, Obama alumni and officials from blue states.” This does not seem very unifying IMHO.

        • No. I don’t think it’s that simple. For example, when we were working on the lynx amendment we had a timber lobbyist (whose views were extreme one way) and environmental groups (whose views were extreme another way). As it turns out, there was plenty of room in the middle.

          All I would ask for is people with experience finding the place in the middle, and listening to both sides. If it’s possible with USDA conceivably it’s also possible with Interior. If you can politicize something, you can un-policiticize it.


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