The Bears Ears: A Human History of America’s Most Endangered Wilderness

David Roberts. Norton, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-324-00481-3
Embedded in the land surrounding Utah’s Bears Ears are “all kinds of poignant ironies and surprising contradictions,” writes adventurer Roberts (Limits of the Known) in this engrossing history of an area that’s become enveloped in controversy. Roberts’s episodic “human history” ignores chronology to “jump around among the ages” and stretches back to the Ancestral Puebloans, who “flourished through all four seasons” on Cedar Mesa, near the two buttes called Bears Ears around 1250 CE. From there, he recounts the “first mention in print of any part of the greater Bears Ears domain” by a Franciscan priest and explorer in 1776; “British born aristocrats” who “exploited the fertile terrain” around Bears Ears with their team of Mormon ranchers in the 1880s; a 1970s county commissioner who “locked horns for decades with the writer Edward Abbey”; the campaign of Mark Maryboy, the “Navajo activist who got the snowball rolling that would become Obama’s Bears Ears National Monument” in 2016; and the Trump administration’s subsequent moves to greatly reduce the size of the Bears Ears protected area. Roberts intersperses his own exploration of the land as he surveys a place with great historical significance, physical beauty, and expansive cultural import. The result is a masterfully rendered portrait of Bears Ears as an endangered land worth celebrating and protecting. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 10/23/2020
Release date: 02/23/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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