Updated Oct 8, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Biden restores protections for national monuments in Utah and New England

Ancient granaries, part of the House on Fire ruins are shown here in the South Fork of Mule Canyon in the Bears Ears National Monument on May 12, 2017 outside Blanding, Utah.
Ancient granaries are seen in Bears Ears National Monument outside Blanding, Utah, in 2017. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

President Biden announced Friday the protection of the expansion of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the New England coast.

Why it matters: The decision reverses a Trump-era policy that reduced the Bears Ears Monument's size by 85% in 2017. It also comes after a coalition of Native American tribes urged Biden to restore the monument.

Driving the news: "This may be the easiest thing I've ever done so far as President," Biden said before signing legislation to restore protections for the three national monuments.

  • "These protections provide a bridge to our past, but they also build a bridge to a safer, more sustainable future. One where we strengthen our economy, and pass on a healthy planet to our children and our grandchildren," Biden said.

The moves are consistent with recommendations from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, per the White House. They are supported by the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Justice as well as the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

  • The White House said administration officials met with members of Congress, state and local government officials, representatives of Tribal Nations and other stakeholders before coming to a decision. Haaland also visited Utah to directly meet with local residents and tour the area.
  • Bears Ears and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts were established by former President Obama in 2016. Grand Staircase-Escalante was created by former President Clinton in 1996.

What they're saying: "Today's announcement, it's not just about national monuments. It's about this administration centering the voices of indigenous people and affirming the shared stewardship of this landscape with tribal nations," Haaland said Friday.

  • "The President's actions today writes the new chapter that embraces indigenous knowledge, ensures tribal leadership has a seat at the table and demonstrates that by working together, we can build a brighter future for all of us."

The other side: "The President's decision to enlarge the monuments again is a tragic missed opportunity — it fails to provide certainty as well as the funding for law enforcement, research, and other protections which the monuments need and which only Congressional action can offer," wrote Utah Gov. Spencer Cox in a statement.

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

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