Energy & Environment

Biden expected to restore national monument boundaries scaled back by Trump

President Biden this week is expected to order the restoration of the original borders for two national monuments in Utah that were reduced in size by former President Trump.

Utah officials on Thursday said they were informed by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland of the forthcoming move.

“We learned this afternoon from Secretary Haaland that President Biden will soon be announcing the restoration of both Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments,” said a joint statement from Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) and other top officials who voiced frustration with the planned action.

“We expected and hoped for closer collaboration between our state and national leaders, especially on matters that directly impact Utah and our citizens,” they said.

The White House and the Interior Department declined comment when contacted by The Hill. 

The Salt Lake Tribune first reported on the planned move.

Haaland issued recommendations on the matter several months ago and reportedly called for full restoration. According to The Washington Post, she also recommended a full restoration of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument near Massachusetts, an area Trump opened up for commercial fishing.

The New York Times reported Thursday that that protections for that monument would also be restored.

Former President Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument in 2016, while former President Clinton designated Grand Staircase-Escalante a national monument in 1996. In 2017, Trump reduced the borders of Grand Staircase-Escalante by about 47 percent and Bears Ears by 85 percent.

After promising on the campaign trail to restore the monuments to their previous acreage, Biden directed Haaland to review the boundaries of the monuments and submit recommendations, which she later presented to the White House.

Last month, Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary, told reporters she has “every confidence that President Biden will do what he promises.”

Native American and conservation groups have put pressure on the White House to take immediate action. In late September, representatives from the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition called for the immediate restoration of the boundaries for Bears Ears.

“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,” Hopi Vice Chairman Clark W. Tenakhongva and Navajo Nation Representative Henry Stevens Jr. wrote.

Utah officials on Thursday criticized the planned restoration as misguided.

“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,” state leaders said in their joint statement.

The statement also quoted Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion that the national monument statute should preserve the “smallest area compatible with the care and management” of those spaces.

“We agree and will consider all available legal options to that end,” the officials said.

The restoration of the borders would be the latest of several moves by the Biden administration to reverse Trump-era environmental policies and rules. Earlier this week, the White House announced it would reverse rollbacks of the National Environmental Protection Act.

Updated at 6:02 p.m.

Tags Barack Obama Deb Haaland Donald Trump Joe Biden

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