Biden Restores National Monuments Shrunk Under Trump
Established during Obama and Clinton, shrunk in some places and expanded in others by Trump and by Congress, and now restored to their original size, the whirlwind journey of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monuments seems to have come to an end.
Another national monument which escaped widespread attention at the time, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument (NCS), also had protections returned to it that had been been reduced under the Trump Administration.
In what was the largest reduction in federally-owned land for purposes of recreation and conservation in the nation’s history, the shrinking of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante (GSE) ruffled more then a few feathers.
Investigative reporting revealed a flurry of mining and fishing rights claims, lawyers from environmental groups and Tribal Nations filed suits, local Utah residents argued the legality of suddenly locking them out of more than 60% of their entire county, and Patagonia clothing even got involved.
However it didn’t even take 24 hours for Biden to put the decision under review, and after what was likely a largely for-show tour of the areas to gather opinions, Biden signed a proclamation restoring the monuments to their original size following Sec. of the Interior, Deb Haaland’s, recommendation.
“By restoring these national monuments, which were significantly cut back during the previous administration, President Biden is fulfilling a key promise and upholding the longstanding principle that America’s national parks, monuments, and other protected areas are to be protected for all time and for all people,” the White House stated.
In Bears Ears, an area characterized by “deep sandstone canyons, broad desert mesas, towering monoliths, forested mountaintops dotted with lush meadows, and the striking Bears Ears Buttes,” the total conserved area now includes both the original boundary, and the 11,000 acres which were not originally included but which Trump added, to a total of 1.36 million acres.
GSE, which wasn’t protected under Obama, was in 1996 described as “a geologic treasure” and the last place in the Lower 48 to be mapped. There one can find bold plateaus, multihued cliffs, narrow slot canyons, and 600 species of bees. It has been restored to 1.87 million acres following a 47% reduction by Trump.
Lastly NCS, a unique marine environment that serves as a breeding ground for Blue Whales off the coast of New England, and which was not shrunk at all, had commercial fishing restored in its 5,000 square miles. Under Biden-Harris, the only Atlantic Ocean national monument will be restricted to very limited fishing rights once again, with crab and lobster catch phased out by 2023.
“The President’s action will ensure that our children, and our children’s children, will be able to experience the wonder, history, and beauty of these extraordinary public lands and waters as we do today,” Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Brenda Mallory, said.
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