Interior Secretary tours Bears Ears National Monument with state leaders
Apr 8, 2021, 8:30 PM
(The Bears Ears of the Bears Ears National Monument are pictured from the air on Monday, May 8, 2017. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
BLANDING, Utah – The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments are, once again, being examined by the White House. The US Secretary of the Interior toured one of those monuments today to speak with everyone she could about this contentious issue.
Secretary Debra Haaland acknowledges the Biden administration is considering the requests to restore the national monuments to their previous size, but she said it’s not her decision to make. For now, she’s on a fact-finding mission to discover all of the competing interests between state leaders and local residents.
Haaland said her job is just to listen and learn.
“[I’m here] to listen to the governor, listen to the Utah delegation, listen to the tribal leaders and listen to the local folks and stakeholders who care deeply about this land and who have lived here all their lives,” she said
Discussions began Wednesday evening, and Haaland said there are a lot of similarities among everyone involved.
Haaland said, “We all want, pretty much, the same thing. We want to protect land. We want to make sure that it’s there for generations to come.”
Huge thanks to the Governor, Lt. Gov and Utah congressional delegation for meeting with me to discuss a path forward for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. pic.twitter.com/JIQlLYWsrA
— Secretary Deb Haaland (@SecDebHaaland) April 8, 2021
She hiked some of the trails of the Bears Ears National Monument with Governor Spencer Cox, who believes there are ways to protect everyone’s interest in the land before the president makes his decision.
“Our tribal leaders talk about wanting to use these lands for spiritual ceremonies, but also for practical purposes,” the governor said. “We want to try to take the divisiveness out of this as much as we possibly can.”
Senator Mitt Romney says the disagreements over the land have become a partisan game of ping-pong, and it’s up to the president to make it stop.
“There can be lawsuits going back and forth,” Romney said. “The administration could do something permanent so that the ping-ponging and the lawsuits end.”
Haaland is scheduled to visit the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on Friday. County commissioners said they hope to show the two monuments are very different with very different needs.