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Utah's governor, congressional delegation meet with Interior Secretary on Bears Ears

Posted at 8:09 PM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 23:33:02-04

BLANDING, Utah — Governor Spencer Cox and members of Utah's congressional delegation had a private meeting with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Wednesday night.

She is visiting Bears Ears National Monument before making a recommendation to President Biden about whether to undo President Trump's executive order shrinking the controversial monument.

In an interview this week with FOX 13, Gov. Cox said he expected the monument's size to increase again, but he hoped for an end to the "ping-pong" nature of Republican and Democratic administrations using the Antiquities Act to suit their purposes.

He asked for a meeting with Secretary Haaland, and she obliged.

"There is a road to consensus. Whether or not the parties are willing to go down that road remains to be seen, but it’s a good first step," he said.

Asked about the boundaries of the monument, Gov. Cox told FOX 13: "I suspect it will be increased for sure. Whether it’s increased to its original size or not will depend on what happens in these discussions."

A scenic swath of land in southeastern Utah, Bears Ears has been mired in controversy since it was created in 2016 by President Obama. The area, characterized by a pair of buttes that Native American tribes have called "the Bears Ears," is rich in cultural and natural resources. While some have championed it as an area worthy of protection, others have called the monument designation "a land grab." In 2017, President Trump dramatically shrunk the monument boundaries (which is currently being challenged by tribal and environmental groups).

Now, President Biden is contemplating reversing what President Trump did.

Secretary Haaland spent part of her day on Wednesday at Bears Ears National Monument. She was escorted by Bureau of Land Management employees who work there. She also met with environmental and conservation groups, including Friends of Cedar Mesa.

Secretary Haaland and Utah's political leaders will hike part of the monument on Thursday. Afterward, she is expected to hold a joint press conference with them.