President Joe Biden is expected to sign three proclamations restoring protections stripped by the Trump administration for Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts national monuments, state and federal officials confirmed Thursday.
The Biden administration said in a memo that the move is part of its efforts “to better protect, conserve, and restore the lands and waters that sustain the health of communities and power our economy.”
President Donald Trump had gutted or lifted restrictions on all three national monuments to allow development, mining, ranching, drilling and fishing.
In late 2017, Trump signed a directive that sharply reduced Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in southern Utah by 1.23 million acres out of a total of 3.25 million acres, all of which had been protected by monument status.
Bears Ears was designated by President Barack Obama in 2016, and Grand Staircase-Escalante was designated by the Clinton administration in 1996. Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the Atlantic Ocean’s first marine monument, off the coast of New England, was designated by Obama in 2016, and Trump last year signed an order to allow for commercial fishing within its boundaries.
Environmentalists and Native American tribes had sued the Trump administration over the directives and have pressed Biden to restore the protections.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., the chair of the Natural Resources Committee, praised the decision in a statement, saying, “It’s time to put Trump’s cynical actions in the rear-view mirror.”
Biden’s decision to restore full federal protection “shows this administration’s commitment to conserving our public lands and respecting the voices of Indigenous Peoples,” Grijalva said.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, confirmed the decision to expand Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in a statement Thursday but sharply criticized the administration for not having consulted his office to “end the perpetual enlarging and shrinking of these monuments and bring certainty to their management.”
“These decisions clearly demonstrate the administration’s unwillingness to collaborate with and listen to those most impacted by their decisions. We remain hopeful that a long-term solution will be reached in the future and that the exhausting policy instability over Utah’s public land can come to an end,” Cox said.