by Monte Wells

Last week, the Salt Lake Tribune published an article about the fashion industry showing support for the defunct Bears Ears National Monument. It was titled:

“Scenic, sacred and now sexy! Fashion designer makes a bold statement for protecting Bears Ears and Grand Staircase monuments” by Kathy Stephenson

The article began:

“Utah’s national monuments are scenic, sacred and now sexy enough to take a turn on the catwalk.

Hoping to “make a statement” in support of wilderness, designer Chris Leba featured everyday Utahns and their fight to protect the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments on several pieces in his new line of clothing.”

The following is a piece from his collection.

(Greg Kessler | courtesy Mode PR) New York Fashion Week models wear clothes featuring images of Utah protests.









Chris Leba R13 Denim Clothing (Brand) from R13 Denim Facebook page

All I can say is, ‘sorry Chris, but you’re several decades late with your R13 design.’

The R13 design was all the rave as clothing for the Wilderness Quest (WQ) staff and students as far back as 1989 in San Juan County Utah.

WQ adopted the look because of its affordability, usability, and durability, keeping cost down while running a private business on public lands to help struggling kids and their families. The company ran in the area from 1989 to 2005.

This private business brought in jobs and helped hundreds of adolescents, young adults, and their families from all over the world with addiction and family issues. Part of the program was giving back to the community, and so the staff and students did hundreds of hours of service projects for the BLM, US Forest Service, and the cattle ranchers who still use the land today.

WQ owners and Staff 2004

This wilderness, outdoor-based 12 step treatment program operated, hiked and lived throughout the western half of San Juan County Utah for almost two decades. Their operating area included a substantial portion of the 1.3 million acres of the original Bears Ears and parts of the reduced Bears Ears area.

They worked with land management agencies, locals, and the tourists who visited the area. There was room for everyone, but most of all, they helped people.

WQ Staff and past student
WQ Student
WQ Student
WQ Staff

When you consider the federal restrictions of the Bears Ears National Monument designation, current federal land agencies restrictions, limits to access in existing wilderness areas, efforts to close roads to all except hikers, and the corporate environmentalist campaign to eliminate private businesses on public lands, these days, you would never be able to run a business-like Wilderness Quest in the area again.

R13 should be a reminder to us of everything that is being taken away, and the immoral methods used to convince people that, because the lands are so fragile and ‘sacred,’ everyone but the most elite brands of tourists wearing elite brands of apparel, should be locked out.

Worse still are those who scream about ‘sacred lands’ and the ‘sovereignty of non-Indian lands,’ as if no one else could regard the land as sacred or care about it at all. Some Bears Ears activists have pimped out their own ethnicity and history to elevate their political clout on both sides of the issue, playing on the emotions of shame and hate to achieve dominion over those they see as lesser people or of less worth. When you see a greater worth being placed on the demands, wants, needs, or opinions of one ethnicity over all others; that is racism. Some call it ‘reverse racism,’ but racism is racism.

So, I salute Mr. Chris Leba for his — unknowing — reminder and tribute to all the locals who have loved and used the land in San Juan County over the years; private businesses like Wilderness Quest, hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, and ranchers that use it today.

Owner of The Petroglyph photo provided by BLM LEO Jason Moore
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