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Lawmakers react to Sec’y Haaland’s reported Utah monuments decision

Jun 16, 2021, 8:13 PM
Utah monuments shrinking finalized...
The Interior Department has finalized management plans for Bears Ears National Monument (pictured above) and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Proclaim, contract, expand —  a familiar political ping-pong ball in the form of Utah monuments.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is recommending in a confidential report, which has not been released to the public, that President Joe Biden restore full protections to two Utah national monuments  — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante — which were shrunk by President Donald Trump less than a year later, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity, The Washington Post reported.

Bears Ears National Monument, which is the ancestral homeland to the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Pueblo of Zuni in San Juan County in southeastern Utah, was established by President Barack Obama by presidential proclamation on Dec. 28, 2016. The monument’s original size was 1.35 million acres (2,112.264 sq. mi.), which was reduced by 85%  to 317 sq. mi. by President Donald Trump on Dec. 4, 2017.

Mr. Trump cut Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument almost in half, which was designated under President Bill Clinton in 1996 on 1.88 million acres of federal land under the Antiquities Act.

Utah GOP Rep. Chris Stewart has called on the Biden administration to secure a permanent resolution, so the two Utah monuments do not continue to be used as a political ping-pong ball.

Gov. Spencer Cox said he doesn’t want an ongoing legal battle over the two monuments and their changing dimensions but he said that may be the state’s only option.

“We’ve got this perpetual lawsuit and it’s so dumb,” Cox told Deseret News. “And it doesn’t help anybody. It doesn’t make anything better. So no, I don’t want that to happen. But if I’m being practical and realistic, and I probably shouldn’t be, but that’s what’s likely to happen.”

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Lawmakers react to Sec’y Haaland’s reported Utah monuments decision