Two sprawling Utah national monuments will be restored by President Joe Biden. They have been the focus of an ongoing public land dispute. A separate New England marine conservation area has also been recently used for commercial fishing.

These monuments span vast areas of southern Utah, where red rock reveals petroglyphs, cliff dwellings and distinct buttes that rise from a lush valley. Former President Donald Trump invoked the century-old Antiquities Act to cut 2 million acres from the two monuments, calling restrictions on mining and other energy production a “massive land grab” that “should never have happened.”

The White House had announced Thursday’s changes ahead of an expected ceremony on Friday.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, expressed disappointment in Biden’s decision to restore Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments, which the Trump administration downsized significantly in 2017. In a joint statement, he and Utah Republicans called it “disappointing” but not surprising. 

Trump’s maneuvers made mineral extraction possible on the land considered sacred to five tribes, including the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute, and Ute Mountain Ute tribes.

Trump’s 2017 decision:Trump reduces Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante monuments during historic proclamations

Trump’s actions on national monumentsTrump Administration contemplates further changes to national monuments following Bears Ears

Tribes and environmentalists Thursday evening hailed the announcement that affects land in Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument as a breakthrough on an issue that has clouded the Utah area’s future for years.

“Bears Ears will Be Protected!” The Native American Rights Fund Thursday released a written statement in which it praised the Biden Administration’s expected actions to protect Bears Ears.

The White House said in a statement that Biden was “fulfilling a key promise” to restore the monuments to their full size and “upholding the longstanding principle that America’s national parks, monuments and other protected areas are to be protected for all time and for all people.”

Near the end of Obama’s administration, Barack Obama expanded the federally protected Bears Ears area. Trump reduced the area to approximately 200,000 acres. Grand Staircase–Escalante also saw a nearly 50% reduction by Trump’s government, which left it on approximately 1 million acres. Both monuments were built by Democratic presidents.

Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who has advocated for legislation to reverse Trump’s actions since 2017, will be attending the signing ceremony at Biden’s White House. 

“It’s been great to finally get it to here,” said Gallego, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee. “It’s very sacred and trusted land, and we’re going to preserve it for generations to come.”

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, said Biden’s decision “shows this administration’s commitment to conserving our public lands and respecting the voices of Indigenous Peoples. Trump’s foolish actions must be put behind him.

Utah Republicans had hoped that Biden would act after U.S. This summer, Interior Secretary Deb Haland visited Utah and recommended that Trump be reversed.

Utah’s governor called Biden’s decision a “tragic missed opportunity.” The president’s action “fails to provide certainty as well as the funding for law enforcement, research and other protections which the monuments need and which only Congressional action can offer,” Cox said in a statement released with other state leaders.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, likewise complained about the development, also citing the need for a legislative solution.

Romney stated, “Yet another time, Utah’s monuments are being used in a political game between administrations.” Twitter.

See also:Native American activists who cross the country with a totem stick are reminded that sacred lands is their Notre Dame.

From the Gila River through Bears EarsIn the midst of shifting politics, environmental activists are reaffirming their commitment to protecting Southwest US public lands.

“The President squandered the opportunity to build consensus by working with stakeholders to find a permanent, legislative solution to resolve the longstanding dispute over the monuments’ boundaries & management, which would’ve brought certainty to and benefited all stakeholders,” Romney said in You can also tweet.

Biden’s actions were among a series of steps the administration has taken to protect public lands and waters, the White House said, including moves to halt oil leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and prevent road-building in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the nation’s largest federal forest.

However, the executive actions reflect the Senate’s inability to get 60 votes against a Republican filibuster of any bill to permanently protect the land. Biden’s executive action means a future president could seek to reverse the protection reinstituted Friday.

Biden’s plan also restores protections in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Cape Cod. Trump’s rule changes to permit commercial fishing in the marine monument were praised by fishermen groups, but denigrated by environmentalists. Biden and Haaland had to reverse Trump’s decision to allow fishing.

Protecting the marine monument safeguards “this invaluable area for the fragile species that call it home” and demonstrates the administration’s commitment to science, said Jen Felt, ocean campaign director for the Conservation Law Foundation.

Contributing: Debra Klol, Arizona Republic; Christal Haes, USA Today; Associated Press 

Follow Ronald J Hansen on Twitter @ronaldjhansen.

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