Bears Ears Documentary Update – Cayley Geffen

After many interviews, road trips, and discussions, the filming process for the Bears Ears Documentary Project is nearly complete. I have learned so much more than I ever could have imagined about the complex nature of land use politics in the West. I am very much looking forward to watching the many hours of footage that I have collected as I begin the editing process in the next few weeks.

The last two months of filming have been incredibly eventful. After leaving the WRF retreat in Wyoming in late June, I drove to Denver, Colorado to speak with the directors of several organizations based in Colorado: the Access Fund (Brady Robinson), the Outdoor Industry Association (Amy Roberts), and the Center for Western Priorities (Greg Zimmerman). These interviews illustrated the incredible impact that national organizations can have on land use policy throughout the West. I also had the opportunity to speak with the Policy Director of the Access Fund, Erik Murdock. Erik Murdock was in Washington during the Obama Administration and played an active role in the designation of Bears Ears as a National Monument. His interview gave me a unique perspective on the governmental process that led Bears Ears to become a National Monument in 2016.

In late July, I attended the Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City as a reporter. The Outdoor Retailer is the semi-annual trade show for the Outdoor Retail Industry organized by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and Emerald Expositions. After twenty years in Salt Lake City, the Outdoor Retailer this July was Utah’s last. The Outdoor Retailer has decided to move to Denver over disagreements with Utah’s state government surrounding public lands policy. I had the opportunity to speak with the Executive Director of the OIA, Amy Roberts, about this decision. She explained that the Outdoor Retailer, a trade show that exhibits products for use outdoors, did not belong in a state with elected officials that support President Trump’s decision to review, reduce, and possibly rescind federal and public lands. On the Thursday of the Outdoor Retailer, the OIA hosted a March For Public Lands. Thousands of Outdoor Retailer attendees marched from the Outdoor Retailer to the Utah State Capitol with signs supporting Utah’s national monuments and public lands. Many notable speakers voiced their support for public lands on the steps of the Utah State Capitol. The March For Public Lands really underscored the support for public lands in Utah and in the West. Sally Jewell was in attendance at the Outdoor Retailer and she gave a pointed speech about the history and significance of national monuments in the United States and the importance of Bears Ears National Monument in particular. After the speech, we were able to speak with her further about Bears Ears. Meeting Sally Jewell was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of this project for me.

The last step in the filming process is another two trips down to Bears Ears National Monument. The first trip will be next week. On Wednesday, I am heading down to Bears Ears to speak with a paleontologist about the scientific and paleontological importance of the Bears Ears area. The second trip will be in mid-September, as Southeastern Utah begins to cool down. During this second trip, I will collect photographs and videos of the incredible scenery, archeology, wildlife, and recreation opportunities that Bears Ears has to offer to use as “b-roll” in the documentary. I have already started to map out backpacking trails that will allow me to capture all of the beautiful archeological ruins, viewpoints, arches, slot canyons, and wildlife in the Bears Ears area. I am very much looking forward to both these trips and to beginning the editing process.


A furry protester at the March for Public Lands.

March for Public Lands

March for Public Lands

March for Public Lands

Meeting and Interviewing Sally Jewell at the Outdoor Retailer