According to the New York Times, based on a report that has yet to be released to the public, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has urged President Biden to reinstate the boundaries and restore protection of three national monuments stripped of protection and size by the Trump administration: Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, a marine monument in the Atlantic.
During Trump’s presidency, he dramatically reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, and opened the areas to mining, drilling, and development. Environmental, conservation, and Indigenous groups protested the reduction in protections heavily, as did the outdoor industry. The annual Outdoor Retailer trade show pulled out of Utah and relocated to Colorado, at least partially in response.
In 2020, Trump also opened the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts to commercial fishing, a sensitive fishery and some of the last remaining habitat of the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Of a recent camping visit to Bears Ears, Haaland told an interviewer: “There are some pretty amazing ruins there, and you know, I don’t even like to call them ruins, because in our culture, in Pueblo culture, if you acknowledge our ancestors, they are there,” she said. “The spirit of the people never leaves.”
President Biden may or may not act on Haaland’s wishes, however. Many Utah politicians have yet to indicate support for any plan to reestablish protections at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, and are unlikely to do so since the slashing of those monuments was done largely at the behest of those lawmakers and their energy sector supporters.
In a statement, Utah’s congressional statement said: “We reiterate our request that the president publicly release the secretary’s report recommendations and meet with our delegation before making a final decision on the monuments’ boundaries,” the lawmakers wrote. “We also urge the administration to work with our delegation, as well as with state, local, and tribal leaders, to craft a permanent, legislative solution, which we believe is the only path to resolving this longstanding issue and providing much needed certainty to our communities.”
We’ll update as the story develops.
Photo: Metate Arch in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near Escalante, Utah. Credit: John Fowler/CC