Washington (AP) – President Joe Biden will restore two huge national monuments in Utah that are at the center of a long-running public land dispute, and a separate marine conservation area in New England that has recently been used for commercial fishing. Environmental protection at all three monuments was snatched away by former President Donald Trump.
The White House announced the changes Thursday night ahead of a ceremony on Friday.
Utah Governor Spencer Cox, a Republican, expressed disappointment in Biden’s decision to restore the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments, which the Trump administration significantly curtailed in 2017.
Monuments cover vast expanses of southern Utah where red rocks evoke distinctive buttes from petroglyphs and cliff dwellings and grassy canyons. Trump invoked the centuries-old antiquated act to cut 2 million acres (800,000 ha) from the two monuments, calling the ban on mining and other energy production a “massive land grab” that “should never have happened”. “
His actions reduced the Bears Ears by 85% to more than 200,000 acres (80,900 ha) on land considered sacred to Native American tribes. He nearly cut the Grand Staircase-Escalante in half, leaving it about 1 million acres (405,000 ha). Both monuments were erected by Democratic presidents.
The White House said in a statement that Biden was “fulfilling an important promise” to restore the monuments to their full size and “upholding the longstanding principle that America’s national parks, monuments and other protected areas should be protected.” To be preserved forever and for all” people.”
The White House said their action was among a series of steps taken by the administration to protect public lands and waters, including halting oil leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and road construction in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. steps are included. The largest federal forest in the country.
Biden’s plan restores security in the Northeast Valley and Frontier National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of Cape Cod. Trump changed a rule to allow commercial fishing on the marine monument, an action that was launched by fishing groups but ridiculed by environmentalists who have sought to restore protections against fishing. Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
“This invaluable area for the delicate species that call it home” demonstrates the administration’s commitment to science and protecting marine monument safeguards, said Jane Felt, Ocean Campaign Director for the Conservation Law Foundation.
Raul Grijalva, Democrat and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, also praised the Biden administration in a statement, saying that restoring the monuments “shows its dedication to preserving our public lands and respecting the voices of indigenous peoples.” “
“It’s time to put Trump’s cynical antics in the back mirror,” Grijalva said.
But the governor of Utah called Biden’s decision a “tragic missed opportunity.” In a statement issued along with other state leaders, Cox said the president’s action “fails to provide certainty as well as provide funding for law enforcement, research and other protections that require monuments and which Can only offer Congress action.”
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney also criticized Biden, saying in a tweet that the president “missed an opportunity to build consensus” and sought a permanent solution for the monuments.
“Still, Utah’s national monuments are being used as a political football between the administrations,” Romney said Thursday. “The decision to re-extend the borders of Beers Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is a devastating blow to our state, local and tribal leaders and our delegation…”
Jennifer Roccala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group, also praised Biden’s decision, saying she expects it to be a starting point toward her goal of preserving at least 30% of American land and ocean by 2030. is step.
“Thank you, President Biden,” Roccala said in a statement. “You have listened to indigenous tribes and the American people and ensured that these landscapes will be preserved for generations to come.”
Roccala said Trump’s cuts increased national attention to Bears Ears. He called on the federal government to manage the scenario and boost funding to handle the growing crowd.
Haaland, the first Indigenous cabinet secretary, traveled to Utah in April to visit the monuments, becoming the latest federal official to step into a year-long public land battle. It presented its recommendations on the monuments in June.
In a statement on Thursday, Haaland said she had the “distinctive honor of speaking with the many people who care deeply about this land” during her visit to Utah.
Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, said, “The historical connection between indigenous peoples and bear ears is undeniable; our Native American ancestors have perpetuated themselves on the landscape since ancient times, and evidence of their prosperous life is everywhere. Looks.” .
Former President Barack Obama declared Bears Ears a national monument in 2016, 20 years after former President Bill Clinton walked away to defend Grand Staircase-Escalante. Bear Ear was the first site to receive the designation upon the specific request of the tribes.
The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which pushed for its restoration, has stated that the twin buttresses of the monument are believed to be places of worship for several tribes. This group includes the Hopi tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, the Pueblo of the Zuni, and the Ute Indian tribe.
“President Biden did the right thing to restore Bears Ears National Monument,” Coalition member and Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee chairman Sean Chapos said in a statement. “For us, the monument is never gone. We will always return to these lands to manage and care for our sacred sites, water and medicines.”
The Trump administration’s cuts in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante pave the way for potential coal mining and oil and gas drilling on lands that were previously off-limits. However, activity was limited due to market forces.
Conservative state leaders considered the size of both monuments to be greater than that of the US government and commended the cuts.
Environmental, tribal, paleontological and outdoor recreation organizations sued to restore their original borders, arguing that presidents do not have the legal authority to replace the monuments erected by their predecessors. Meanwhile, Republicans argued that Democratic presidents misused the Antiquities Act signed by President Theodore Roosevelt to designate monuments needed to protect archaeological and cultural resources.
The Biden administration has said the decision to review the monuments was part of a broader plan to tackle climate change and reverse the Trump administration’s “damaging” policies.
Fishing groups protested the construction and process of building Obama’s Ocean Memorial.
“There is a way to manage these fishing areas that is a little cumbersome, a little time consuming, but it brings all the stakeholders together,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen Association.