Utah leaders express disappointment in expected federal monuments’ expansion

A moonlit arch over Grand Staircase-Escalante on February 6, 2015. Photo by Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Oct. 7, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah leaders are expressing their disappointment in President Joe Biden’s administration’s expected decision to expand Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.

Biden could sign executive orders restoring the boundaries of the monuments as early as Friday, multiple outlets reported. The White House has yet to officially comment.

Gov. Spencer J. Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, Attorney General Sean Reyes, President J. Stuart Adams and Speaker Brad Wilson issued the following statement on the subject, by way of a news release from the Office of the Governor.

We learned this afternoon from Secretary (Deb) Haaland that President Biden will soon be announcing the restoration of both Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.

President Biden’s decision to expand the monuments is disappointing, though not surprising. For the past 10 months, we have consistently offered to work with the Biden administration on a permanent, legislative solution, one that would end the perpetual enlarging and shrinking of these monuments and bring certainty to their management. Our goal has been to make lasting progress on managing our public lands for the benefit of all those who use them, particularly those who live on and near those lands.

We expected and hoped for closer collaboration between our state and national leaders, especially on matters that directly impact Utah and our citizens. 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.

As Chief Justice Roberts noted earlier this year, the purpose of the Antiquities Act is to protect the “smallest area compatible with the care and management” of significant archeological or historical objects to be protected. We agree and will consider all available legal options to that end.

We are equally disappointed that the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters will be moving from Colorado to Washington, D.C. — thousands of miles away from over 90 percent of the country’s federally-owned and managed lands. Locating the BLM away from the nation’s capital and near the lands managed brought a valuable new perspective to the BLM and should have served as a model for other federal departments.

These decisions clearly demonstrate the administration’s unwillingness to collaborate with and listen to those most impacted by their decisions. We remain hopeful that a long-term solution will be reached in the future and that the exhausting policy instability over Utah’s public land can come to an end.”

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney also tweeted about the potential decision:

Yet again, Utah’s national monuments are being used as a political football between administrations. The decision to re-expand the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is a devastating blow to our state, local, and tribal leaders and our delegation.

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 and management, which would’ve brought certainty to and benefited all stakeholders.

We will continue to support efforts to ensure that Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante’s boundaries and management reflect the unique stakeholder interest and uses in the area, but today’s “winner take all” mentality moved us further away from that goal.

Gephardt Daily will have more on this developing story as information is made available.


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