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Interior Secretary submits Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante recommendations

Posted at 12:13 PM, Jun 04, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has submitted to President Biden her recommendations on the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

It was revealed in a newly filed court document in lawsuits over President Trump's decision to shrink the boundaries of both monuments in southern Utah. Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice, which is defending the federal government in litigation filed by tribal and environmental groups, asked for more time to see what President Biden decides.

It noted that Secretary Haaland had visited the area recently.

"During that visit, which occurred in April, the Secretary visited lands in the area of the national monument at issue in this case and met with elected officials, Tribal leaders, and stakeholders invested in the stewardship of the monument. The Department of the Interior transmitted the report summarizing the findings and recommendations to the President on June 2, 2021," government attorneys wrote.

"The parties believe that the Court should continue the stay to allow the President to consider the findings and recommendations in the report. Continuing the stay and allowing the President to consider, and potentially act on, the report’s findings and recommendations would better situate the parties to answer the questions in the Court’s ...order concerning whether the current dispute has been or will be mooted or whether the current litigation should continue."

The U.S. Department of Interior has not commented on what the recommendations are or when they will be made public. A spokesperson for Governor Spencer Cox said they learned on Thursday night the report had been submitted to President Biden, but also did not know what the recommendations are.

The governor visited the area with Secretary Haaland and expressed hope that they could craft a compromise on the monument boundaries. However, Gov. Cox has warned that litigation from the state may occur if they can't reach consensus.

In a post on Twitter, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said he supported a full restoration of Bears Ears' boundaries.

Bears Ears National Monument was created by President Obama shortly before he left office. Then President Trump shrank the boundaries, as well as those of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It prompted lawsuits by environmental and tribal groups. President Biden is contemplating whether to restore the boundaries or expand them further.