Report: Haaland urges Biden to restore full protections to Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante

Haaland National Monuments
Posted at 6:43 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-14 21:17:29-04

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has recommended that President Joe Biden restores two of Utah's national monuments to their pre-Trump administration size and protection, according to a report from The Washington Post.

The Post reports that Haaland made the recommendation in a confidential report, which two people involved spoke about anonymously.

She urged Biden to restore full protections to Bears Ears National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and a marine reserve off New England.

This comes just over two months after the interior secretary visited southern Utah to see the areas in question and speak with local elected leaders.

READ: Interior Secretary submits Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante recommendations

In 2017, then-President Donald Trump cut Bears Ears' boundaries by nearly 85 percent, and Grand Staircase-Escalante's by almost half.

The Post reports that Biden favors overturning Trump's changes.

However, Utah's congressional delegation is asking the president to meet with them before making a decision, and for Haaland's full report to be made available to Congress.

READ: Utah's governor warns of possible lawsuit over Bears Ears boundaries

“We also urge the administration to work with our delegation, as well as with state, local, and tribal leaders, to craft a permanent, legislative solution, which we believe is the only path to resolving this longstanding issue and providing much-needed certainty to our communities," a statement issued by all four of Utah's congressmen and both senators read in part.

The full letter can be read below:

"Dear Mr. President,

"We write regarding your administration’s review of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah. Last week, we learned that Secretary Haaland submitted her recommendations to you on the national monuments’ boundaries. As you consider a final decision regarding the monuments’ boundaries and management, we request that the Secretary’s report be made available to Congress and that you meet with us before making a final decision.

"Since you issued Executive Order 13990, we have on many occasions urged your administration to work with the Utah delegation towards a permanent, legislative solution to the monuments’ boundaries. We appreciated the decision to extend the initial 60-day timeline and that Secretary Haaland accepted our invitation to visit Utah to tour the monuments and engage state, local, and tribal leaders before submitting her recommendation. We also appreciate the continued dialogue between the Department and our staff.

"During discussions with Secretary Haaland in Utah, our delegation, along with state, local, and tribal leaders, reiterated our desire to find a permanent, legislative solution, which we believe is the only path to resolving the longstanding dispute over the monuments’ boundaries and management, as well as providing much-needed certainty to our communities. We also articulated if the administration acts unilaterally, a legislative solution will be nearly impossible to achieve and it would only lead to further conflict, division, and lawsuits.

"Our delegation, tribal governments, local partners, and department officials have worked in good faith to share and listen to differing viewpoints on this issue. In that same spirit, we request you meet with us before making a final decision and publicly release the Secretary’s report recommendations. This is a matter of utmost importance to the communities in our state, and we remain committed to working toward a permanent, legislative solution together.

"We appreciate your cooperation and willingness to engage thus far, and we again urge your administration to work with us to craft collaborative, consensus legislation that reflects the input of the people most directly impacted. It is past time to end the political back-and-forth that the communities in our state have been subjected to for more than 25 years, and you have a historic opportunity to do so by working with Congress."

The letter was signed by Sen. Mitt Romney, Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. Chris Stewart, Rep. John Curtis, Rep. Burgess Owens and Rep. Blake Moore.