Oct. 8 (UPI) — President Joe Biden on Friday will announce that he’s restoring lands in three national monuments that were effectively taken away by former President Donald Trump so they could be opened up to mining.
The White House said Biden will restore — and even add — land to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments in Utah and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument in New England.
Officials said Biden will slightly enlarge 1.3 million acres in the Bears Ears National Monument that were previously under federal protection, as well as 1.8 million acres in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The restoration in Northeast Canyons and Seamounts — the first U.S. marine monuments in the Atlantic Ocean — will return protections to sea canyons and underwater mountains near the New England coast.
Biden is scheduled to make the announcement at 1:45 p.m. EDT Friday at the White House.
“By restoring these national monuments, which were significantly cut back during the previous administration, President Biden is fulfilling a key promise 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,” the White House said in a statement ahead of Biden’s announcement.
Former President Barack Obama created the boundaries for the controversial Bears Ears monument in late 2016, but Trump scaled them back the following year. Trump, in fact, removed more than 2 million acres from the monuments in Utah.
Trump’s scaling back federal protections opened up the lands, which are sacred to several Native American tribes, to mineral mining.
“Restoring these protections will conserve a multitude of sites that are culturally and spiritually important to Tribal Nations — including petroglyphs, pictographs, cultural sites, dwellings and areas used for traditional rituals,” the White House added.
Environmental advocates applauded Biden’s decision.
“Bears Ears Will Be Protected! We applaud expected Biden administration actions to restore protections for Bears Ears and its one-of-a-kind and sacred landscape,” the Native American Rights Fund said in a statement.
“Bears Ears protections were established after years of negotiations, input, and advocacy on behalf of tribes, states, non-governmental organizations and the public. Those hard-earned protections were removed in 2017. The area subsequently saw a rash of exploitation and abuse by vandals, commercial interests and misinformed tourists.”
Republican politicians in Utah oppose the move to restore protections to the monuments.
“We expected and hoped for closer collaboration between our state and national leaders, especially on matters that directly impact Utah and our citizens,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, Attorney General Sean Reyes, State Senate President J. Stuart Adams and State House Speaker Brad Wilson said in a joint statement.
“The president’s decision to enlarge the monuments again is a tragic missed opportunity. It 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.”