A privately-owned 320-acre ranch in southeast Utah purchased by the nonprofit Wildlands Conservancy in July may become a model for working with tribes to protect wilderness in the American West. The deed is expected to include a coalition of five tribes as co-owners and managers of Cottonwood Wash. The kind of mitigated sovereignty proposed by Wildlands -- you can own the land, but you can’t use it or make money from it -- lines up with the mission of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, the official alliance of the five tribes, which wants the land to be protected. But not all Navajos agree, given high unemployment rates on the Navajo Reservation. The broad agreement on ecological health could be tested as the parties work out the specifics of management, and lawyers work through byzantine property law to forge the actual co-ownership deal.

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