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Bears Ears Announcement Relies On Grand Staircase Photo

U.S. Department of Interior
This screenshot of the Department of Interior web page announces preliminary recommendations for reducing the size of the Bears Ears National Monument. But the vista shown is from the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument half a state away.

The Obama administration took heat in December for the image it used to tout the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument. Now the Trump administration has its own photo blunder.

Members of Utah’s congressional delegation kicked up a small tweetstorm when the Obama administration made the mistake of using a photo of Arches National Park to promote its new national monument in southeastern Utah. Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz tweeted “Couldn’t find a pic of Bears Ears & doesn’t even know where it is #WorstPresidentEver.”

“We should be particularly disturbed by the fact that the same people who made this decision, the same people who decided to declare this national monument, apparently don’t know the difference between the Bears Ears area, on the one hand, and Arches National Park, on the other hand,” said an angry U.S. Senator Mike Lee in a Facebook post. “Either that, or they do know the difference, and they’re all too willing to deceive the American people.”


Then, on Monday, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced his proposal to shrink the new monument. The announcement on Twitter and includes a snapshot of Zinke looking out on a stunning vista during his four-day trip to Utah last month.

“The image behind secretary Zinke is drop-dead gorgeous,” says Josh Ewing, who leads conservation group, Friends of Cedar Mesa. “But it’s not Bears Ears gorgeous.”

In fact, it’s the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. That's according to the label on Interior Department's web site

Ewing supports keeping the Bears Ears National Monument as-is, and he doesn’t want to make too much of the photo gaffe. As Matthew Gross, spokesman for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, put it: there are more important issues.

“It’s illustrative of the very cursory and perfunctory review that Secretary Zinke has done on Bears Ears,” he says. “I hope as he makes further recommendations about boundaries that he remembers which monument he’s standing in.”

The Interior Department’s press office did not respond Tuesday to KUER’s request for comment.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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