Journalist Rebecca Robinson and photographer Stephen Strom join us to discuss their recently published book Voices from Bears Ears: SeekingCommon Ground on Sacred Land
, published by the University of Arizona Press. In late 2016, President Barack Obama designated 1.35 million acres of public lands in southeastern Utah as Bears Ears National Monument. On December 4, 2017, President Donald Trump shrank the monument by 85 percent. A land rich in human history and unsurpassed in natural beauty, Bears Ears is at the heart of a national debate over the future of public lands.
Through the stories of twenty individuals, and informed by interviews with more than seventy people, Voices from Bears Ears captures the passions of those who fought to protect Bears Ears and those who opposed the monument as a federal “land grab” that threatened to rob them of their economic future. It gives voice to those who have felt silenced, ignored, or disrespected. It shares stories of those who celebrate a growing movement by Indigenous peoples to protect ancestral lands and culture, and those who speak devotedly about their Mormon heritage. What unites these individuals is a reverence for a homeland that defines their cultural and spiritual identity, and therein lies hope for finding common ground.
Journalist Rebecca Robinson provides context and perspective for understanding the ongoing debate and humanizes the abstract issues at the center of the debate. Interwoven with these stories are photographs of the interviewees and the land they consider sacred by photographer Stephen E. Strom. Through word and image, Robinson and Strom allow us to both hear and see the people whose lives are intertwined with this special place.
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland. Her work has been widely published and broadcast in numerous print, online, and radio outlets, and she has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Alliance for Women in Media, and the Associated Press, among others. She began her work on the manuscript for Voices from Bears Ears, at the 2015 Fishtrap Summer Gathering of Writers. Strom spent 45 years as a research astronomer after receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in astronomy from Harvard. He began photographing in 1978, after studying the history of photography and silver and non-silver photography at the University of Arizona.