Sep 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Tribes urge Biden to restore Bears Ears National Monument after Trump-era cuts

he sun sets over Monument Valley in the distance as seen from the Bears Ears National Monument on April 4, 2021 outside Blanding, Utah

The sun sets over Monument Valley as seen from the Bears Ears National Monument on April 4 outside Blanding, Utah. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

A coalition of Native American tribes is urging "immediate action" from President Biden to restore and expand Utah's Bears Ears National Monument, which was slashed by nearly 85% under former President Trump, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Tribal activists are increasingly frustrated that Biden hasn't reversed Trump's rollback of protections for national monuments and restored their original boundaries.

Driving the news: "We have tried to be patient and respectful as we await your decision on restoration," Clark W. Tenakhongva, vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe, and Henry Stevens Jr., representative for the Navajo Nation, wrote in the letter to Biden obtained by the Post.

  • "However, the longer action is not taken, real harm, much permanent, is occurring on this sacred landscape."
  • The coalition also criticized the Biden administration for allowing the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to operate under Trump-era management plans, which the tribes are not "collaboratively engaged [in]," per the letter.

The big picture: Interior Secretary Deb Haaland this summer urged Biden to restore full protections to three national monuments that shrunk under Trump, including Bears Ears, the Washington Post reports.

  • Biden, who ordered the Interior Department to investigate the monuments on his first day in office, has not yet announced his plans to restore the land.
  • The tribes that make up the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition include the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Hopi Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe and Pueblo of Zuni, per the Post.

What they're saying: "Each day that passes without national monument protection for numerous sacred sites and irreplaceable cultural resources risks desecration, looting, vandalism, and misinformed visitation to an area that contains the exact kind of antiquities that inspired the creation of the Antiquities Act," per the letter.

  • "These artifacts, considered by us to be messages our ancestors meant for us to see and incorporate as lessons into our present, are literally being erased."

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