President Biden announced today that he is restoring protections for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. We applaud President Biden and Secretary Haaland for their leadership and persistence for this meaningful result and we hope you take a moment to read below how significant this decision is and what it means for future National Monument designations.
As you know, four years ago President Trump cut the size of the Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in half.
This action removed protections for some of the most culturally important land for the Hopi, Diné, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni peoples, world-renowned hotbeds of paleontological research, and world-class destinations for outdoor recreation and natural beauty. Bears Ears is the first tribally-requested national monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante the first monument placed into the National Landscape Conservation System to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management and not the U.S. Park Service.
Conservation Lands Foundation responded quickly and joined with sovereign tribal nations connected to the land and local and national organizations in a lawsuit against the Administration’s actions. On the ground, our Friends Groups could only stand by and monitor–while withstanding the devastating impacts of the pandemic–the degradation of sacred sites and former Indigenous settlements from mining, grazing, looting and other activities that occurred on the unprotected lands.
Woody Lee, Executive Director of Utah Diné Bikéyah said they celebrate the restoration while also acknowledging “the challenging times our native communities are having right now which makes this achievement bittersweet but a welcome and hopeful change for the future. We appreciate all the support and hard work of many people, organizations, leaders, and supporters who have helped advance our mission of healing the land and the people."
Sarah Bauman, Executive Director of Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, recognizes it will be important to work “with Tribal leaders, conservation partners, the Bureau of Land Management, local and state officials, and others to safeguard irreplaceable natural and cultural resources, conduct essential research related to biodiversity and climate change, and protect Grand Staircase in perpetuity.”
With protections restored we can breathe a sigh of relief but we can’t relent. Now is the window to protect the places we need if we’re going to have any impact of consequence on the climate and nature crises.
We recognize the leadership and vision of Tribal governments and Indigenous non-profit organizations to restore justice.The fight for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante showed us that millions of Americans will stand up for protecting the places we need for the cultural continuity for sovereign tribal nations, their rich ecological and wildlife values, and their ability to improve public health and local economies.
Whether through Presidential use of the Antiquities Act, Congressional legislation or regulatory action, with your continued support the Conservation Lands Foundation and our Friends Grassroots Network will achieve this future within the timeline that matters.
When the right thing is done, we all win and it feels good to stand beside all of you conservation champions!