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President Obama declares Bears Ears National Monument, Indian Creek and Utah climbing protected

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On 28 December 2016 the President of the United States Barack Obama established the Bears Ears National Monument. This proclamation permanently protects a region which includes Indian Creek, Lockhart Basin, Arch Canyon, Texas Canyon, and many other sandstone climbing areas and is the first bill that specifically acknowledges rock climbing as an appropriate and valued recreation activity.

2016 comes to a close with outstanding news from the USA, where President Barack Obama has just declared the Bears Ears region of southeast Utah a National Monument. While this may at first glance mean little to many, the effects of this permanent protection of this 1.35 million acre site for the outdoor community in general and the climbing community in particular are far reaching as it is home to a substantial amount of world-class climbing, such as the internationally renowned sandstone haven Indian Creek.

Access to this, as well as Lockhart Basin, Texas and Arch Canyons, Comb Ridge, Valley of the Gods and dozens of other areas was at risk due to proposed privatisation in order to extract the area's natural resourses. Realising the gravity of the threat, years ago the American Access Fund - which represents the interests of American climbers - teamed up with the Native American community and earlier this year even appealed to climbers for support. In truth The Bears Ears area had been proposed for protection by members of Congress, Secretaries of the Interior, State and tribal leaders, and local conservationists for at least 80 years. A legislative solution was sought through the "Utah Public Lands Initiative", but Congress failed to vote on this before it adjourned on December 8. Interestingly, this political stalemate was broken when President Obama took matters into his own hands and signed the bill. Just as interestingly, rock climbing is specifically mentioned in the official proclamation, meaning that climbers - and specifically the Access Fund - will be able to play a part in the multi-year process to develop a monument management plan.

In its recent press release, the Access Fund stated "For years, this exceptional landscape has weathered impacts from resource extraction and irresponsible public use, especially the looting of Native American cultural sites… We applaud and thank President Obama for establishing Bears Ears National Monument. It was the only viable way to permanently protect the invaluable cultural resources and recreational opportunities found throughout the region."

- Read the National Monument Proclamation on www.whitehouse.gov

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