Biden Reinstates Protections for Three National Monuments

Image: Bruce Rinehart via Wikimedia Commons

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

The White House announced Friday that President Biden will use his executive authority to restore protections for three national monuments drastically reduced during the Trump Administration. He will reestablish and increase the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, both of which are in Utah. The orders will also restore protections to Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument off the coast of New England.

 

Why This Matters: 

 

The Biden administration said in an advance statement, “The President’s protection of these three national monuments is among a series of steps the Administration has taken to restore protections to some of America’s most cherished lands and waters, many of which are sacred to Tribal Nations.”

 

For example, Trump reduced Bear Ears by 85% or 1.1 million acres in 2017, seeking to open the land to ranching, mining, drilling, and fishing industries. Bear Ears is an important archeological site and the ancestral land of five tribal nations: the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Pueblo of Zuni.

 

Protecting National Monuments

President Biden aims to restore Bears Ears to its original size plus 11,200 acres incorporated during the Trump Administration. In total, Bear Ears will encompass 1.36 million acres.

 

Grand Staircase-Escalante will also have more than 800,000 acres restored, bringing it back to its original size of 1.87 million acres. Like Big Ears, the monument houses fossils of lizards, dinosaurs, fish, Indigenous cultural objects like petroglyphs and pictographs, and diverse wildlife. 

 

On the East Coast, climate change and overfishing have threatened Northeast Canyons and Seamounts as protections were lifted during the Trump Administration. According to a White House press release, “Restoring the Monument’s conditions will restore its integrity, expand the opportunity for unique scientific study and exploration, and protect and preserve natural and cultural resources for all Americans.”

 

Clark W. Tenakhongva, vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe and co-chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (BEITC), said in a press release

 

Thank you, President Biden and Vice President Harris, for upholding your commitment to restore Honmuru (the Bears Ears Monument), which is the birthplace of many Hopi and other Native peoples. Through this action, the history of our people, our culture, and religion will be preserved for future generations.

 

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