GRAND GALLERIES Lower Butler Wash
Bears Ears National Monument, Utah
When former President Barack Obama established the 1.4million-acre Bears Ears National Monument on December 28, 2016, he secured protections for several hundred thousand cultural and archaeological sites that had suffered from looting, grave robbing, and energy development. Since 2013, state and federal managers had flagged more than 100,000 acres along the monument’s eastern edge near Bluff, Utah, for potential oil and gas leases. Monument status effectively put those plans on hold.
Fast-forward a year: President Donald Trump’s executive order to roll back Bears Ears up to 85 percent of its former size exposes many sites to renewed drilling threats. In March, the BLM plans to auction off leases in the Canyon Country District, which includes the former Bears Ears. And new wells have been permitted on BLM land 2 miles north of Bluff, near the old monument boundary.
Native American tribes, state attorneys general, and groups such as the Wilderness Society have all promised to challenge Trump’s action in court (see page 26). You can show where your allegiance lies on the trail. Head into the southern corner of the reduced monument—in what was tentatively called “Shash Jaa National Monument” at press time—to see the Procession Panel, a 1,500-year-old petroglyph that depicts 179 human forms marching to a central circle. From the unmarked trailhead on Lower Butler Wash Road, follow the unsigned trail southwest. Cross Butler Wash and another sandy drainage before climbing slickrock slabs, where cairns mark the route. Descend into a canyon slicing into Comb Ridge and hike west to Procession Panel, 1.4 miles from the trailhead. Puzzle at the 15-footlong assembly of sheep, serpents, deer, and people (some wearing elaborate headdresses) before retracing your steps. TRAILHEAD Procession Panel (37.3511, -109.6288) SEASON September to May PERMIT None CONTACT friendsofcedarmesa.org