In a new video released today (Facebook video/YouTube video), San Juan County children express their hopes and dreams for the future in the face of a possible national monument designation by President Barack Obama. The move would further restrict access to 1.9 million acres of what is largely multiple-use BLM and U.S. Forest Service land in the Bears Ears area. The video was produced by Sutherland Institute.
After one of the children says he wants to be a rancher like his father and grandfather, another child says, “But when someone takes away your land and livelihood, can you really be anything you want to be?”
Matthew Anderson, of the Coalition for Self-Government in the West, says, “While many children across the country are able to pursue the American Dream, those in this rural part of southeastern Utah are left to fight an uphill battle.” Anderson is a policy analyst for the coalition, which is a Sutherland project. “Major parts of one national park, three national monuments, and a national recreation area already exist in San Juan County. The restrictions accompanying these designations have already stifled economic prosperity and endangered livelihoods.”
Anderson notes that San Juan County has both the lowest income per person and median family income in the state – ranking it among the most economically depressed in the entire country. Federal lands have already jeopardized the future of these children, and the proposed Bears Ears national monument will all but seal the economic fate of San Juan County. This monument designation is taking more than just 1.9 million acres from these children. It’s stealing their American Dream.
To make achieving the American Dream more likely for residents and their children, San Juan County should not rely solely on tourism, Anderson said, but should have the land and resources left available to them to create a diverse and robust economy based on a philosophy of multiple-use lands. Those uses could include ranching, natural resource extraction, tourism and entrepreneurship.
The San Juan County children shown in the video represent a cross-section of their peers from throughout their county. These children give voice to countless dreams, from carrying on a family legacy in ranching to exploring new possibilities in technology – all are intertwined with the land they live on and the resources it provides.