President Biden Will Reconsider the Controversial Rollback of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, White House Announces

by Madison Miller

With President Joe Biden now in the White House, he will be reconsidering the rollback of Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

During Trump’s administration, there was a controversial rollback on the two monuments. However, an executive order from late January suggested that Biden may consider returning the monuments to their original borders.

According to Backpacker, the Secretary of the Interior will consult with cabinet members and tribal governments. The goal is to best decide whether or not the restoration of the boundaries will happen. Biden will review the findings after 60 days.

The same order also forced oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to stop. It revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Former Actions Regarding Monuments

In 2017, President Trump had signed a proclamation that shrunk the two national monuments in southern Utah. His actions were opening the door for exploitation of the natural resources found within the monuments. Specifically, oil and gas leasing. He had argued that former presidents had abused their authority by creating these monuments.

He reduced the Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National monument nearly in half.

According to National Geographic, very soon after his inauguration, President Joe Biden promised to focus on conservation.

“As President, Biden will take immediate steps to reverse the Trump Administration’s assaults on America’s natural treasures,” his campaign said. After the boundaries are restored, a plan will need to be put in place that helps manage the desert landscape.

Originally, President Barack Obama created the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears monument. Then, President Bill Clinton created the Staircase-Escalante monument.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument holds millions of years of sedimentary erosion. It is a huge area containing important elements of modern science and culture.

When the land was reduced, five tribal governments filed a lawsuit against Trump. Patagonia, a popular outdoor-apparel company, also expressed their distaste for the move. They posted a black screen on social media with the words, “The President Stole Your Land.”

What Would it Mean to Restore this Land?

Bears Ears is a monument that sits in southeast Utah. It looks like two large ears that rise up out of a meadow. For Indigenous groups, the monument has special meaning and has been a meeting place for centuries.

According to Sierra Club, the monument is important to many people. The proposal to protect it involved a lot of hard work from many groups.

“Those are sacred ancestral hills. For thousands of years, our ancestors drew strength from them. The minerals, the vegetation, the woods, the birds, all the traditional uses. In Navajo it is a way of life. We want to teach that way to future generations. That’s what Bears Ears is all about,” President of the Olijato Chapter of the Navajo Nation, James Adakai said.

The land also needs more regulations toward visitors and other protective measures.

The protection and restoration of these two landmarks is the first move of many that will come from Biden. However, some are concerned the land will be passed back and forth. Notably, every time the administration changes.

“Our Nation has an abiding commitment to empower our workers and communities; promote and protect our public health and the environment; and conserve our national treasures and monuments, places that secure our national memory.  Where the Federal Government has failed to meet that commitment in the past, it must advance environmental justice,” A White House executive order said.

One of his first actions was also to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. This is a major move toward environmental protection.