Environmental Decision-Making and Sense of Place: Exploring the Effects of Bears Ears' Shifting Status on Stakeholders' Personal Relationships to the Land
Area of Study
Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
The aim of my summer research was to explore how sense of place is affected by environmental decision-making—whether that be on a local or federal level—examining Bears Ears, as a case study. Ever since the initial push—back in 2013—to designate Bears Ears as a National Monument, this landmark of the Four Corners Region represented a quarrel, familiar to the American Southwest: friction between those who wish to conserve Western landscapes for their sacred value, and those who would rather exploit those lands for their natural resource—and thus economic—potential. After years of advocacy and petitioning of the federal government, in 2016, the Obama Administration placed Bears Ears under federal protection, by means of the Antiquities Act. But, on December 4, 2017, President Donald Trump made the executive decision to drastically reduce the land protected by Bears Ears National Monument, by 85%. Paired with the simultaneous reduction of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, this ruling was “the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history” (Turkewitz 2017), and opened up this land to oil, gas, and mineral leasing, as well as countless other uncertainties, faced by unprotected public lands. How does this now-prevalent possibility of natural resource extraction in Bears Ears affect the sense of place held by those who view this land as a sacred space, whether that be for religious, historical, or even recreational reasons? How does federal intervention affect the sense of place held by those whose families have lived in San Juan County, largely untouched by extra-local mediation, until now? These are just two questions driving my research: to explore how sense of place is affected by environmental decision-making—whether that be on a local or federal level—examining Bears Ears, as a case study. With this research aim in mind, I spent much of my summer in Utah and Colorado, conducting semi-structured interviews to hear different stakeholders’ narratives. To supplement these eighteen interviews, I sought out literature, already written on topics similar to that of which I am researching, myself. The accumulation of these different data sources can be found in a detailed, partially-annotated bibliography, that I continue to add to, with every new bit of data I find.
Siegel, Ana, "Environmental Decision-Making and Sense of Place: Exploring the Effects of Bears Ears' Shifting Status on Stakeholders' Personal Relationships to the Land" (2018). Summer Research. 331.
University of Puget Sound