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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

Go deeper

Biden's fiery 2024 preview

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris speak with reporters after their speeches Thursday. Photo: Ken Cedeno/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden says holding former President Trump accountable for the Jan. 6 attack is about confronting the truth so America can move on.

  • "I’m crystal clear about the threats America faces," he said at the Capitol today in a fiery speech on the anniversary of the riot. "But I also know that our darkest days can lead to light and hope."

Between the lines: Biden also previewed themes for 2024 — especially if there's a Biden-Trump rematch.

1 hour ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania. 

Updated 1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.