The possibility cannot be dismissed that instead of fearing ‘skewed data,’ Center for Western Priorities avoided taking into account  comments made by people from San Juan County because that’s where opposition to Bears Ears National Monument is most profound.

by Marjorie Haun

Center for Western Priorities (CWP), a green, anti-fracking group that receives funding via the George Soros project, New Venture Fund, is touting huge numbers of ‘supportive’ comments submitted to the Interior Department regarding President Trump’s review of the newly-formed Bears Ears National Monument (BENM). If you dig deep enough into the piece published by the urban progressive magazine, City Weekly, you will find CWP concedes they never bothered to assess those living in San Juan County, ground-zero for Obama’s 1.35 million acre-designation. Citing the figure of 1.4 million comments issued to the Department of the Interior, the article claims:

The Interior Department is processing more than 1.4 million comments, from which one group’s statistical analysis shows more than 98 percent prefer national monuments the way they are. Furthermore, 88 percent of the respondents who self-identified as Utahns favor Bears Ears or Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Despite the obvious injection of bias into the analysis, the media director of CWP insists their numbers are ‘sound.’

The organization that conducted the statistical analysis, Center for Western Priorities, is pro-Bears Ears. But its media director, Aaron Weiss, who is also the author of the study, says the numbers are sound. Weiss offers to share the data and spreadsheet with anyone who might question the results or methodology. Statistics, he responds, is “not rocket science,” and he encourages naysayers to run a sample and see what their numbers say.

Nevertheless, Weiss admits San Juan County was left out of the sampling. It goes on:

Weiss says he didn’t try to break down the data further into respondents who live in, say, San Juan County, because the sample size is too small and would leave too much variance that could skew the data.


The assertion that the vast majority of 1.4 million comments were ‘pro-monument,’ is less a reflection of public opinion than it is of which side has the best PR machine.

The Rest of the Story

As in all propaganda pieces, the City Weekly article tells only one, small part of the story. The assertion that the vast majority of 1.4 million comments were ‘pro-monument,’ is less a reflection of public opinion than it is of which side has the best PR machine. More than two months ago, a San Juan County (SJC) pro-local interest group fighting to protect the Bears Ears region from the effects of industrial tourism exposed the metrics behind what CWP wants Americans to believe is a slam-dunk.  A few weeks into the Interior Department BENM comment period, an intrepid citizen, using readily-available search techniques–not rocket science–was able to prove that tens of thousands of these ‘pro-monument’ comments were generated by just a handful of pre-fab, cut-and-paste emails. In a Beyond the Bears Ears post, Devan Hancock, a SJC local and Native American, revealed:

…that 75,437 of the 149,669 comments received were form letters submitted by various environmental proponents nationwide. That is 50% of the letters submitted. Here is the breakdown:

6)  Sixth place goes to the “50 Years Ago” form letters.  There were 2160 replicas of this copy-cat message which began: “Dear Secretary Ryan Zinke,
Bears Ears Monument should have been protected 50 years ago and deserves to be protected for future generations.  Please [dont] rescind or….” Note the typo which didn’t even get fixed on most letters!  

5)  Fifth place for most repetitive message goes to the “judicious use of the Antiquities Act” form letter with 3181repeats.

4)  Jumping up to 4th place is the “ecologically rich and culturally valuable” form letter with 4,102 comments submitted.

3)  Third place for “Most Repetitive Message” goes to the Bird Watchers who can’t watch without a Monument!!  15,333 results began:  Dear Secretary Ryan Zinke.  As a supporter of bird conservation and our public lands, I strongly urge you to protect . . .

2)   The runner up with a whopping 21,427 copies is this form letter beginning:  (Some people didn’t even fill in the blank!) 

1) And the #1 most repeated form letter as of June 9 begins:  “Dear Secretary Ryan Zinke, Our public lands are vital to our national legacy. [Theyre] economically beneficial to our local communities, and to our nation as a whole.”  This form letter was used 29,234 times and most users did not correct the typo.

That’s just a small percent of the alleged 98% ‘pro’ comments of 1.4 million collected, right? But when you consider that dozens of progressive outdoor recreation corporations mobilized their employees and patrons, countless green groups issued millions of emails with desperate pleas for their member to ‘act,’ the entire mainstream media-Hollywood echo chamber sided with–and funded–the greens, and incestuous private/public partnerships, such as the Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners, used taxpayer dollars to launch aggressive anti-local, pro-big monument campaigns, CWP’s ‘slam-dunk’ looks more like astroturf.

The possibility cannot be dismissed that instead of fearing ‘skewed data,’ CWP avoided taking into account comments made by people from SJC because that’s where opposition to BENM is most profound.

On February 22 of this year, Jami Bayles, the President of The Stewards of San Juan County, published an open letter to Representative Carol Moss, a Utah Democrat, who was defending Obama’s monument designation. Bayles cited a poll taken in Utah which supposedly showed a majority favoring BENM, but when she broke down the numbers, in SJC a full 98% of those surveyed OPPOSED the monument. In the article, Bayles noted:

…claiming a general “64% of San Juan County residents support a Bears Ears National Monument” is not only false, it’s misleading and it’s a calculated attempt at causing division within the county, state, and between Native American tribes. If the opposition to the monument (which I am a part of) wanted to play that game, we could easily refute that statistic and argue that “only 194 out of 14,973 SJC residents have expressed written support of the monument.” Wow, now wouldn’t THAT be an amazing headline?

But, if you’re not inclined to believe the locals, don’t worry. A November 2016 poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates and published by Utah Policy verified that Utahans in general opposed the BENM, though not in numbers as dramatic as San Juan County. According to the poll, only 19% favored the Obama designation, 14% leaned favorable, 15% leaned unfavorable, and a solid 45% were definitely against it.

On December 28, 2016, while on Christmas vacation in Hawaii, President Obama gave his big green base a 1.35 million acre gift and proclaimed Bears Ear as a national monument. So, for the people of Utah and SJC, they had not only the nightmare of another oppressive land grab to deal with, but a constitutional hornet’s nest. Nevertheless, the election of Donald Trump and his deregulatory, states rights governing philosophy gave the locals a footing on which to fight. By April, Trump had announced his Antiquities Act Review executive order, and forces on both sides geared up for war. The majority of Utahans remained in opposition to BENM, but the options had changed. In April of this year, Utah Policy conducted a follow-up poll which showed:

…a slim majority of Utahns (52%) support either reducing the size of Bears Ears or doing away with the monument entirely. That number includes 32% who say President Trump should “definitely” take action on Bears Ears. 41% think President Trump should leave the monument alone. 8% say they don’t know.


The truth is that the vast majority of tribal chapters pushing for the monument were located outside of San Juan County. The two chapters nearest the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument came out strongly against it.

Astroturf Tribes

Early in the process, the pro-monument green-corporate-bureaucratic industrial tourism complex formulated a plan to put a Native American face on their scheme to turn the southeastern corner of Utah into a vast, contiguous series of tourist destinations. Their plot unfortunately failed to take into account the political, cultural and geographical divides between the various tribal chapters and the individuals within those tribes. The truth is that the vast majority of tribal chapters pushing for the monument were located outside of San Juan County. The two chapters nearest the boundaries of BENM came out strongly against it.

Graphic created by Stewards of San Juan County from data provided by Bureau of Indian Affairs

In May, the Vice Chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation wrote in a poignant editorial:

This land in San Juan County is sacred to our native people. There is no question that those sacred Native sites need protection. What most people don’t understand is that the Native American cultural sites within the monument were already protected under federal law. Inviting the world to visit these pristine areas does not protect them any better, but it will exploit them. Increasing popularity does not increase protection. This land has been used by my native brothers and sisters to gather wood, pick plants that have healing and ceremonial purposes and enrich their lives. This land at times has served as a burial ground and a place to live. This land has also been used by many local residents of San Juan County, who are good people who work hard every day to make a living. If you go there today it is a beautiful and peaceful place. It has been taken care of by all of us for the last 100 years and we will continue to do so.

The Bears Ears National Monument occupies over one-third of the surface land of San Juan County, in one of Utah’s most impoverished regions. The usual suspects; urban progressives, Soros-funded special interests, giant outdoor recreation corporations, radical greens, political panderers, Hollywood eco-warriors, and mainstream media toadies would have you believe that national monuments and parks are a godsend to small, rural towns. But the truth is these federal enclaves restrict economic diversity, drive out traditional industries, force families to relocate, and supplant middle class jobs with low-paying ‘amenities’ positions.

Center for Western Priorities is just another propaganda mill, directed by globalist interests determined to marginalize America’s rural working families and repress the voices of those whose opinions should far outweigh the far-flung commentaries cited in their so-called study. The rationale used by CWP for passing over residents of San Juan County; those whose lives would be inescapably and wholly altered forever, was because to count their comments would ‘skew’ the data. It appears that the only skewed factor in the City Weekly article is perspective; that of urban ‘conservationists’ from hundreds of miles away, launching a public relations assault against rural Utah in order to commandeer the lands, resources, and lives of the people whom they believe aren’t important enough to have a say.


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