George Frey/Getty. Inset: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
President Joe Biden is making some of the country’s wide open spaces even wider.
The White House announced plans on Thursday to protect the country’s first marine national monument and to restore the boundaries of national monuments in Utah that the Trump administration slashed in the largest national monument reduction in U.S. history, which Trump argued was to correct government “overreach.”
Biden, 78, will sign proclamations on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument in the Atlantic on Friday as part of his administrations “effort to better protect, conserve, and restore the lands and waters that sustain the health of communities and power our economy,” the White House said.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to hold a cabinet-level position in any administration, visited the sites in Utah earlier this year and was instrumental in the decision to restore the public lands.
Halaand tweeted Friday about her visit to Utah and her recommendation to restore the protections.
“While in Utah, I had the honor of speaking with so many who care deeply about this land. The historic connection between Indigenous peoples and the land surrounding Bears Ears and the power of the landscape to the Tribal and local communities is undeniable,” she wrote.
The White House touted the decision as a campaign promise kept to uphold “the longstanding principle that America’s national parks, monuments, and other protected areas are to be protected for all time and for all people.”
eorge Frey/Getty Bears Ears National Monument
Protecting 1.36 million acres of Bears Ears National Monument, which Trump cut by 85 percent, “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, gatherings, and tribal practices — as well as paleontological objects, landscape features, historic objects, and plant and animal species,” the White House said.
The “world-class geological objects of historic or scientific interest” within the restored 1.87 million acres of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument include “vast paleontological objects including significant fossils of marine and brackish water mollusks, turtles, crocodilians, lizards, dinosaurs, fishes, and mammals, as well as a host of cultural objects associated with both ancient indigenous cultures and early Latter-Day Saint pioneers, including, but not limited to, petroglyphs and pictographs, occupation sites, campsites, granaries, and trails,” according to the announcement.
Trump had cut the national monument by half, saying the move was to reverse “federal overreach” and return the land management to locals — though some groups feared that would make them vulnerable to exploitation.
NOAA Map of Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument
Trump decided to allow commercial fishing in the area southeast of Cape Cod, but the Biden administration will now prohibit it and phase out fishing for red crab and American lobster by 2023. Recreational fishing in the National Monument will continue, the White House said.