Biden honors Tribes, boosts conservation legacy with new monument

Aug 9, 2023

President Joe Biden signed a proclamation to designate nearly 1 million acres of public land as Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument. The monument was proposed by a large group of Tribes called the Grand Canyon Tribal Coalition, some of whom were in attendance at the signing event in Arizona yesterday.

Baaj nwaavjo means “where Indigenous peoples roam” in the Havasupai language, and i’tah kukveni means “our ancestral footprints” in Hopi. For Carletta Tilousi, a member of the Havasupai Tribe, the monument designation means that her ancestors “are finally going to be feeling rested.”  During his speech, President Biden said the establishment of the monument will help tell the “full American story” of the people who have called the region home for millennia.

The monument will help protect the region surrounding the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining, a current and ongoing threat to Grand Canyon National Park, the Colorado River, and the Tribal communities that call the Grand Canyon region home. According to the proclamation, the 917,618-acre national monument includes lands currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, and the agencies will share “co-stewardship of the monument” with Tribal nations.

This is the fifth national monument President Biden has designated since taking office, a pace that puts him on track to surpass previous presidents’ use of the Antiquities Act: President Barack Obama established a total of 29 national monuments in his presidency but only four by the end of his first term, and President Bill Clinton created 19 and expanded three others, but all but one of the designations were made during his last year in office.

While the establishment of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument is noteworthy progress toward reaching the administration’s goal of protecting 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030, the clock is ticking as Biden nears the end of his first term. “There are certainly more landscapes deserving of protection using the Antiquities Act, and President Biden will have opportunities to extend his conservation legacy over the next year,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities. “At the same time, we cannot and should not attempt to reach 30×30 just on federal lands. Protecting 30 percent of America’s lands and waters will require a concerted and coordinated effort across national, state, local, Tribal, and private lands.”

Quick hits

Biden honors Tribes, boosts conservation legacy with new Grand Canyon National Monument

Presidential Proclamation | White House Fact Sheet | New York Times | Forbes | E&E News [what to know] | E&E News | BBC | CBS News | The Guardian | PBS NewsHour | Arizona Republic | Axios | Bloomberg | Grist | Salt Lake Tribune | AZ Mirror

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Quote of the day

By designating the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, President Biden has honored Tribes and safeguarded critical drinking water supplies for Tribal communities as well as the entire Colorado River Basin.”

—Jennifer Rokala, Executive Director of the Center for Western Priorities

Picture This

Text over picture of the Grand Canyon saying "President Biden establishes Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni—Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument


Today marks a historic step in preserving the majesty of the Grand Canyon.

First among American landmarks.
Sacred to Tribal Nations.
Revered by every American.

It speaks to the soul of our nation.

And reminds us who we are.

Featured image: Photo from @grandcanyonnps