Voices from Bears Ears

Seeking Common Ground on Sacred Land

Rebecca Robinson (Author), Stephen E. Strom (Photographer), Patricia Nelson Limerick (Foreword)
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In late 2016, President Barack Obama designated 1.35 million acres of public lands in southeastern Utah as Bears Ears National Monument. On December 4, 2017, President Donald Trump shrank the monument by 85 percent. A land rich in human history and unsurpassed in natural beauty, Bears Ears is at the heart of a national debate over the future of public lands.

Through the stories of twenty individuals, and informed by interviews with more than seventy people, Voices from Bears Ears captures the passions of those who fought to protect Bears Ears and those who opposed the monument as a federal “land grab” that threatened to rob them of their economic future. It gives voice to those who have felt silenced, ignored, or disrespected. It shares stories of those who celebrate a growing movement by Indigenous peoples to protect ancestral lands and culture, and those who speak devotedly about their Mormon heritage. What unites these individuals is a reverence for a homeland that defines their cultural and spiritual identity, and therein lies hope for finding common ground.

Journalist Rebecca Robinson provides context and perspective for understanding the ongoing debate and humanizes the abstract issues at the center of the debate. Interwoven with these stories are photographs of the interviewees and the land they consider sacred by photographer Stephen E. Strom. Through word and image, Robinson and Strom allow us to both hear and see the people whose lives are intertwined with this special place.


For more about this singular landscape, see Bears Ears by Stephen E. Strom, which captures the beauty of Bears Ears country in all seasons, its textural subtleties portrayed alongside the drama of expansive landscapes and skies, deep canyons, spires, and towering mesas. To photographer Stephen E. Strom’s sensitive eyes, a scrub oak on a hillside or a pattern in windswept sand is as essential to capturing the spirit of the landscape as the region’s most iconic vistas. Years from now, this book may serve as either a celebration of the foresight of visionary leaders or as an elegy for what was lost.

“Here is an important breakthrough book—beautiful to look at and heartening to read. By listening keenly to the people whose roots go deep into the swirling sandstone of Bears Ears country, by looking respectfully into the faces of the high cliffs and the equally expressive faces of the people who love this land, Robinson and Strom give us an impressive example of what it will take to find common ground.”—Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Great Tide Rising

“Protection of Bears Ears as a sacred cultural landscape was an historic step forward, a watershed moment too quickly shattered. This insightful book keeps a deep conversation between land and people alive and provides hope that western culture will continue that dialogue as we learn to honor and respect sacred lands.”—Christopher “Toby” McLeod, Sacred Land Film Project

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