WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, along with congressmen Blake Moore, Burgess Owens, John Curtis and Chris Stewart, sent a letter to President Joe Biden last week, urging the Biden Administration to find a permanent legislative solution for drawing the boundaries of two national monuments in Utah.
In December of 2017, President Donald Trump reduced the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as a political favor to Utah politicians.
Trump's decision to downsize Bears Ears by 85% and shrink Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly half earned him applause from Utah's Republican leaders, who considered the monuments an example of federal government overreach.
The cuts made by Trump paved the way for potential coal mining and oil and gas drilling on lands that used to be off-limits, though activity was limited because of market dynamics.
Within hours of taking office on January 20, President Biden signed an executive order that, in part, calls for a review of the boundaries of the two monuments within 60 days.
"During the hearing regarding her pending nomination to be Secretary of the Interior Representative Haaland committed to Senator Lee to come to Utah to meet and speak with those who are impacted by the monument designations and who understand the issue best. Unfortunately, time is running short to fulfill this commitment," the letter, dated March 5, says. "[March 21] is quickly approaching, and we believe it would be premature to have the Department of the Interior make a recommendation on the scope of these monuments without the process being overseen by a Senate-confirmed Secretary."
The two senators and four congressmen requested a meeting with Biden and an extension for the deadline of the review.
"We are confident that your administration can achieve a better, and possibly historic result, with substantive input and engagement from Utah’s stakeholders. Furthermore, if a review is transmitted to you by the Department of the Interior prior to the confirmation of a Senate-confirmed Secretary, our state could be deprived of meaningful opportunities to engage with the Department’s senior-most official on this most pressing issue," the letter says.
Click here to read the full letter. [PDF]