In 1978, Sen. Orrin Hatch backed the legislation that created the 1,300-mile Mormon Pioneer Historic Trail — 132 years after Mormon pioneers traveled portions of it to reach the Salt Lake Valley. The trail passes through several states across private, state and federal land and is part of the National Trails System.
The Bears Ears National Monument was established by President Obama thousands of years after Native American ancestors first inhabited the area. Hatch and the rest of our congressional delegation are attacking the monument’s existence even though it is entirely on public lands.
Today’s Mormons revere the history the Pioneer Trail commemorates and generations of families have re-enacted the migration in order to feel closer to that experience. The trail’s status as part of the National Trails System offers protection to the trails’ heritage.
The Park Service brochure tells visitors to “not use metal detectors, dig at sites, collect artifacts, or remove anything. Please respect these historic places.” These are among the protections the coalition of tribes supporting Bears Ear’s Monument want to strengthen on their heritage lands.
Hatch introduced bills five years in a row to study the feasibility of adding more land to the National Trails System, telling the Deseret News in 2003, “Not every great or tragic event took place along the main routes. … To the contrary, tens of thousands of settlers set out from other places, and many of the most memorable and important events occurred along the historical side roads and alternate routes.”
None of the bills became law.
The same News article says, “However, a coalition of Wyoming oil producers, ranchers and farmers said they worry about expanding those trails — all of which pass through Wyoming — because of restrictions the government may put on surrounding lands. … Which could significantly curtail economic and resource development in Wyoming and across the…