STATEMENT on expected restoration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments

Oct 7, 2021

October 7, 2021

DENVER—President Biden is expected to issue a proclamation tomorrow confirming the original boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah, according to Brian Maffly of the Salt Lake Tribune.

In 2017, President Trump attempted to slash the boundaries of the Utah monuments by 85 and 50 percent, respectively. That attempt was an unprecedented decision that was contested in the courts. By issuing a new proclamation using his authority under the Antiquities Act, President Biden will remove any legal uncertainty and restore protections to more than two million acres of national public lands.

In anticipation of the president’s announcement, the Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“Thank you, President Biden. You have listened to Indigenous tribes and the American people and ensured these landscapes will be protected for generations to come. The cultural and paleontological resources within the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase landscapes are too important to leave at risk.

“National parks and monuments have become the backbone of the economy in Southern Utah. In the 25 years since Grand Staircase-Escalante was first protected, it has transformed the region into a hub for outdoor recreation. Interest in Bears Ears has similarly skyrocketed, ironically due to President Trump’s attempts to remove land protections. With full monument status back in place, Congress and the Interior Department need to manage and fund these landscapes to handle the growing crowds, so they’re properly protected for future generations.

“Now the real work starts. This announcement is only a downpayment on President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative. Scientists warn that we only have a few years to protect 30 percent of the planet’s land and water in order to address the intertwined climate and nature crises. We hope that this proclamation is the first step toward reaching the president’s 30×30 goal. There are many more landscapes across America worthy of protection. Now President Biden has the opportunity to define his legacy as one of America’s great conservation leaders. I hope he’ll take it.”

President Trump’s attempt to shrink the monuments was wildly unpopular in Utah and across the country. At least 98% of public comments submitted at the time urged him and then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to leave the monuments alone, with only one percent in support of shrinking the monuments. 

Subsequent polling by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project found strong support within the state of Utah for restoring both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, with 74% of Utahns in support of restoring national monument protections to lands in the West.

Across the West, there is broad bipartisan support for the 30×30 initiative, with 77% of Western voters saying they support a national goal of protecting 30% of land, waters, and oceans by 2030. 84% of Westerners support creating new protected areas such as national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, and tribal protected areas.

This month, the Center for Western Priorities launched a new television and digital ad campaign, Every Generation, urging President Biden to use his authority to protect new national monuments, including Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada, the Castner Range in Texas, and the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary off the California coast under the National Marine Sanctuary Act.


Photo: Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management