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Controversial telecom tower planned to go up in Bears Ears National Monument

Posted at 6:41 PM, Jun 24, 2024

SAN JUAN COUNTY, Utah — Willie Grayeyes says Navajo Nation members have been on the land in Bears Ears National Monument for centuries.

“Even though the land has been taken away from us, our psychological, education, teaching connection to the Bears Ears will never be taken away from us,” he said. “It's our worship area, gathering of food, herbal medicine, hunting area, prayer site.”

Utah’s Trust Lands Administration has plans to build a 460-foot telecommunications tower on a piece of land they own in Bears Ears, which would make it the tallest structure in Utah.

“I don't see any plan to establish a tower, communication tower, on a church building anywhere,” said Grayeyes.

Michelle McConkie, the executive director of Utah's Trust Lands Administration, said the federal government requires them to make money off the land they own for public schools.

“It's a public service and a public safety issue,” she said. “You have emergency services and search and rescue in an area of the state where there is little-to-no cell phone coverage in a really vast area. They can't communicate with each other.”

She says they understand the tower is big.

“The tower is tall, but it is that way because there are technical reasons why it has to be that tall in order to get the signals out where they need to go,” she said. “It's going to take up as little of a footprint on the land as possible.”

Grayeyes says it would be better to just put a tower in Blanding on a higher point of land.

“Those sites where tourists go and get lost, emergency rescue signals cannot reach every canyon with that low elevation,” he said.

The tower is still going through the approval process with San Juan County.