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Known as Bear Ears for the pair of purple buttes at the region’s center, the newly proclaimed 1.9 million-acre National Monument will preserve a photographer’s checklist of high-desert drama: spires, bridges, canyons. Yet the region’s true distinction is not its topography, but its cultural significance; perhaps no place in America is as rich with ancient Native American sites as Bear Ears. In October 2015, a coalition of five Indian nations, including the Hopi, Ute, and Navajo, formally proposed the monument, attempting to preserve the parcel’s 100,000 archeological sites from ongoing looting and grave robbing. Last June, in a letter to President Obama, more than 700 archeologists endorsed the proposal, saying that looting of the area’s many ancient kivas and dwellings was continuing “at an alarming pace” and calling Bear Ears “America’s most significant unprotected cultural landscape.” President Obama designated Bear Ears Butte and Gold Buttes in Nevada as protected National monuments at the end of last month. The incoming Trump administration, along with the Republican-controlled congress, and Utah state officials, could mount a legal challenge against that designation.

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Bear Ears Buttes in Utah


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    1. Bear Ears Buttes in Utah

    2. Muddy water fills a little opening gulch in the Bear Ears National Monument close Fry Canyon, Utah, USA on Nov.12. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    3. The 1000-year-old Wolfman Petroglyph Panel decorates a rockface inside the Bear Ears National Monument close Bluff, Utah, (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    4. The sun sets on Cedar Mesa (beat), while Utah Highway 261 (base) extends into the separation in an auto's side mirror inside the Bear Ears National Monument close Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    5. Two thousand-year-old petroglyphs cut into a stone board known as 'Daily paper Rock,' some portion of Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument, are inside the limits of the Bear Ears National Monument close Monticello, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    6. Two trucks drive close U.S. Highway 163 inside the Bear Ears National Monument close Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    7. The Colorado River winds around the northern scopes of the Bear Ears National Monument (focus), with Canyonlands National Park out of sight, saw from Dead Horse Point State Park close Moab, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    8. The 8,700-foot-tall Bear Ears Buttes, namesake to the Bear Ears National Monument, are seen from Utah Highway 261 close Blanding, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    9. Sandstone arrangements ascend from the Valley of the Gods under a full moon in the Bear Ears National Monument close Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    10. A long introduction picture demonstrates moonlight lighting up four sharp twists in the Colorado River, saw from Goosenecks State Park, in the Bear Ears National Monument close Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    11. A auto goes along Utah Highway 261 over a sandstone valley known as the 'Valley of the Gods' in the Bear Ears National Monument close Mexican Hat. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    12. Moonlight lights up sandstone buttes in the Valley of the Gods in the proposed Bear Ears National Monument close Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    13. Eight hundred-year-old Ancestral Pueblo ruins, known as 'House on Fire Ruins' for the seething shade of its sandstone, are among the 100,000 archeological locales inside the Bear Ears National Monument close Blanding, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    14. Two thousand-year-old petroglyphs cut into a stone board known as 'Daily paper Rock,' in Bear Ears National Monument. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    15. The see from Cedar Mesa, which is inside the Bear Ears National Monument, broadens 18 miles (29 kilometers) south to the sandstone buttes of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (which is not part of the landmark) close Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    16. In a long-introduction picture around evening time, auto lights enlighten the Moki Dugway, a progression of soak bends that climb 1,200 feet (366 meters) from the Valley of the Gods to the highest point of Cedar Mesa in the Bear Ears National Monument close Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    17. A Navajo lady offers gems from the hood of her auto to bring up cash for her little girl, in the surrounded photo, to make a class trip inside the Bear Ears National Monument close Monticello, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    18. The moon transcends the Colorado River as it winds around the northern ranges of the Bear Ears National Monument close Moab, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    19. A about full "supermoon" ascends at sunset over the Valley of the Gods in the Bear Ears National Monument. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

    20. A about full "supermoon" ascends at nightfall over the Valley of the Gods in the Bear Ears National Monument. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)