Washington, D.C., Oct. 8, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said Friday she was pleased to be on the White House grounds along with other national leaders while President Joe Biden signed a proclamation restoring the boundaries of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante Monuments.
Wilson said: “We need to take proactive measures to protect our vital and cherished federal lands in Utah. Additionally, this move honors the wishes of Native Americans who have stood firm for justice, by preserving more than 100,000 sacred, archeological, and cultural sites. The restoration and preservation of Obama-era boundaries is appropriate land policy. These lands don’t need to be developed or extracted. There is value in investing in our tourism economy and expanding clean industries.
“There continues to be a false argument that expanding extractive industries on federal lands within Utah is a solution for jobs and the economy. The last thing we need are oil trucks colliding with tourists on our rural roads, as day-to-day we become better known worldwide for our exquisite, precious, and historical landscapes.”
On Thursday, Utah leaders including Gov. Spencer J. Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, Attorney General Sean Reyes, President J. Stuart Adams and Speaker Brad Wilson spoke out against the decision to expand the monuments.
The new proclamations will reestablish the boundaries in place before former President Donald Trump’s action to reduce the size of both Utah monuments.
“I am proud to stand with President Biden in restoring these monuments and fulfilling his commitment to the American people,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, by way of a news release from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“On my visit to Utah, I had the distinct honor to speak with many people who care deeply about this land. The historical connection between Indigenous peoples and Bears Ears is undeniable; our Native American ancestors sustained themselves on the landscape since time immemorial and evidence of their rich lives is everywhere one looks. This living landscape must be protected so that all Americans have the profound opportunity to learn and cherish our history.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: “The Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah conserves one of most significant cultural landscapes in the United States, with thousands of archaeological sites and important areas of spiritual significance to Native American people in the region. We look forward to working with Tribal Nations, local communities, the state and others in Utah to protect and manage these lands for future generations.”
Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Brenda Mallory added: “By acting to right a wrong, the president is reaffirming the proud American promise that our parks and monuments are to be protected for all people and for all time. The president’s action will ensure that our children, and our children’s children, will be able to experience the wonder, history, and beauty of these extraordinary public lands and waters as we do today.”
The Utah House Democratic Caucus on Thursday issued a statement supporting the decision.
“We commend President Biden for using his authority to return these treasured and sacred places to their original protective boundaries for all Americans,” the statement said. “The decision of the previous administration to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments was profoundly flawed and heavily influenced by extraction and development interests.
“The vast majority of Utahns recognize the urgent need for protecting these majestic places. And while some have urged a legislative solution over using the Antiquities Act, too many opportunities have been passed up to do the right thing. To continue to leave these cherished places vulnerable to further defacement and looters is unacceptable. The time for action has come.”