Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante announcement likely to draw both praise and ire

Oct 8, 2021, 11:57 AM | Updated: 3:45 pm
bears ears...
FILE - This June 22, 2016, file photo, shows the "House on Fire" ruins in Mule Canyon, which is part of Bears Ears National Monument, near Blanding, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — When President Donald Trump announced he was using the Antiquities Act to scale back the size of both Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 2017, it drew strong reactions — both from those who applauded the move and those appalled by it. 

So it stands to reason four years later, as President Joe Biden expands both monuments to their original size, the reaction will be similarly strong. 

Bears Ears, Grand Staircase to go back to larger size

Mr. Biden made the announcement around noon on Friday. But before it was made official, reaction already started pouring in. Members of the Utah congressional delegation roundly criticized the news, decrying the decision. 

“Yet again, Utah’s national monuments are being used as a political football between administrations,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted. “The decision to re-expand the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is a devastating blow to our state, local, and tribal leaders and our delegation.” 

On the other side of the debate, Woody Lee, executive director of Utah Diné Bikéyah issued a statement supporting the move. 

“Utah Diné Bikéyah celebrates the Bears Ears National Monument restoration. We also acknowledge 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,” Lee said.  

Supporters rally downtown

Dozens gathered inside a banquet hall at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City this morning. They watched the announcement on a pair of projector screens. 

Many held the signature yellow “Keep Utah Wild” signs from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). 

The room in the mood was celebratory and erupted in cheers and applause after President Biden announced his executive orders. 

“We’re elated,” said Steve Bloch, legal director for SUWA. “These federal lands are Americans’ birthright.” 

SUWA has been a vocal proponent of preserving national monuments, like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. It was also vehemently opposed to reductions made to the areas by the Trump administration.

“I think the right to view what the Trump administration did, what the president did, is as an aberration. I think history will come down on the side of preserving and protecting these lands,” Bloch said.  

Utah politicians have threatened legal action against the Biden administration’s plans. Bloch says SUWA and many other groups will be there every step of the way to fight them. 

A game of political football? 

The “political football” of the national monuments began during the Clinton administration. President Bill Clinton surprised a number of Utah leaders when he used his executive power to establish Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. 

The Obama administration established the Bears Ears National Monument, but President Trump reduced the size of both monuments using the same executive power in 2017. 

Mr. Biden’s executive order once again restores both monuments to their original size. 

KSL has a reporter in San Juan County Friday covering the announcement and its ramifications. Tune to Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News from 3 to 7 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio for the latest

Today’s Top Stories

Politics + Government

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries becomes the first Black lawmaker to lead a political party in the U.S. Congres...
Daniella Diaz

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to succeed Pelosi, the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress

At 52, Jeffries represents a generational change from the current House Democratic leaders, who are three decades older than him.
1 day ago
The US Senate has passed a bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriage. It now returns to the...
Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett

Senate passes bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriage in landmark vote

The bill does not set a national requirement that all states must legalize same-sex marriage. Instead, it requires states to recognize another state's legal marriage.
2 days ago
Former Vice President Mike Pence is seen here with audience members after appearing at at CNN town ...
Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Pence says Trump was ‘wrong’ for dinner with Holocaust denier

Former Vice President Mike Pence says former President Donald Trump was wrong for having dinner with a Holocaust denier and should apologize for it.
2 days ago
A ballot drop box is pictured. Those wanting to vote in the utah primary election can still vote in...
Sydnee Gonzalez

Analysis shows ‘sizable’ gap in Salt Lake’s west side/east side voter turnout

Voters on Salt Lake City's west side turned out for the 2022 midterms at a much lower rate than their east-side counterparts.
8 days ago
The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for the Internal Revenue Service to release former Pre...
Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter

Supreme Court clears way for House to get Trump’s taxes

The court's move is a loss for Trump, who has sought to shield the release of his tax returns and is currently under multiple investigations.
9 days ago
The Biden administration is again extending the pause on federal student loan payments....
Arlette Saenz and Katie Lobosco, CNN

Biden extends student loan repayment freeze as program remains in court

The latest extension comes as the Biden administration's student loan forgiveness program remains tied up in the courts.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante announcement likely to draw both praise and ire