(October 7, 2021)—President Biden will take action on Friday, October 8, to restore protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
On December 4, 2017, then-President Trump attempted to reduce the boundaries of Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly half, opening some lands removed from the monuments to mining and drilling. Sovereign Tribal Nations and local Utah and national organizations immediately sued to protect the monuments’ value to Indigenous culture, world-renowned paleontological resources, outdoor recreation, biodiversity, and the region’s economic stability. Those lawsuits are pending.
Below are statements from local and national groups representing some of the plaintiffs in the federal court cases:
Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition Statement (Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the Zuni Tribe)
Utah Diné Bikéyah — Woody Lee, Executive Director
“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.”
Grand Staircase Escalante Partners — Sarah Bauman, Executive Director
“We are grateful for the restoration of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as a connected and protected landscape. Although we celebrate the restoration, we know that this is only the beginning of our work to ensure that this landscape—the ﬁrst monument placed into the National Landscape Conservation System—is conserved, and its important science objectives, inclusive of Indigenous knowledge, realized. We look forward to working with Tribal leaders, conservation partners, the Bureau of Land Management, local and state officials, and others to safeguard irreplaceable natural and cultural resources, conduct essential research related to biodiversity and climate change, and protect Grand Staircase in perpetuity.”
Friends of Cedar Mesa — Joe Neuhof, Executive Director
“We are heartened President Biden has once again provided Bears Ears with the protections this internationally signiﬁcant cultural landscape deserves. Restoration of Bears Ears National Monument demonstrates reverence for the Tribally led effort to protect these lands and acknowledges Bears Ears’ importance to Modern Indigenous Peoples. As evidenced by Edgar Lee Hewett’s recommendation way back in 1904, Bears Ears is exactly the kind of place the Antiquities Act was created to protect. While this day certainly is worthy of celebration, much hard work lies ahead to ensure Bears Ears safeguards do not swing with the political pendulum leaving this sacred landscape as collateral damage. Friends of Cedar Mesa looks forward to working with Tribes and Pueblos, federal land managers, and local communities to ﬁnd common ground and provide real stewardship for these lands we all love.”
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance — Scott Groene, Executive Director
“President Biden’s restoration of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments will be hailed by generations for protecting some of the nation’s wildest and most culturally signiﬁcant public lands. It’s hard to describe the relief and joy our members are feeling right now knowing these places and their irreplaceable objects are on the path to healing after years of deliberate mismanagement and neglect under the prior administration. We’re grateful to President Biden and Interior Secretary Haaland for their leadership in making these places whole.”
Access Fund — Chris Winter, Executive Director
“We are absolutely thrilled that President Biden restored landscape-scale protection for Bears Ears, an irreplaceable and sacred region for Indigenous people. Access Fund is humbled by the hard work of our partners during the ongoing ﬁght to maintain the integrity of Bears Ears for future generations. Bears Ears is a special place for the rock climbing community and we are committed to protecting and conserving its cultural, natural, scientiﬁc and recreation values.”
Archaeology Southwest — Bill Doelle, President and CEO
“President Biden’s restoration of contiguous landscape-scale protections for these national monuments and the diverse cultural and scientiﬁc values they hold is invigorating. It is a concrete demonstration of the Biden Administration’s stated commitment to listen to Tribes, respect ancestral lands, preserve heritage, and be guided by science. This is something to celebrate!”
Center for Biological Diversity — Randi Spivak, Public Lands Program Director
“It’s ﬁtting that President Biden’s fully restored protections for these spectacular national monuments Trump tried to desecrate. This is truly a reason to celebrate. Biden understands the importance of these landscapes to Native people and the need to act boldly to protect the climate and preserve our natural world.”
Conservation Lands Foundation — Brian Sybert, Executive Director
“Americans love their public lands and millions of them stood up to demand justice and the restoration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments. We celebrate President Biden’s proclamation to reinstate the original boundaries. We recognize and are grateful for the leadership and vision of Tribal governments and Indigenous non-proﬁt organizations to restore justice from the Trump Administration’s illegal actions. At a time when many people may be doubting the power of individual voices, President Biden has made clear with this order that his administration is listening and committed to conserve our country’s great public lands, respect Indigenous ways of knowing, address climate change and build a more equitable society.”
Defenders of Wildlife — Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO
“We applaud today’s action by the Biden administration to restore protections and acreage to Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments. These lands are culturally signiﬁcant to Indigenous peoples to whom these landscapes are sacred and are too scientiﬁcally important to leave unprotected. By prioritizing these monuments and conserving these lands, the Biden administration has underscored its commitment to equity, biodiversity and addressing climate change.”
Earthjustice — Heidi McIntosh, Attorney
“We celebrate today as an act of vindication for the Tribes in their ﬁght to preserve these sacred places, and for the many, many people across the country who believe public lands should be protected, and not exploited for short-term, corporate gain.”
Grand Canyon Trust — Tim Peterson, Cultural Landscapes Director
“We applaud President Biden for his decision to honor our shared national heritage by restoring these national monuments. Indigenous peoples have conserved Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante for hundreds of generations, and the revival of these monuments celebrates that legacy.”
Great Old Broads for Wilderness — Shelley Silbert, Executive Director
“We’re thrilled that President Biden and Secretary of Interior Haaland have ensured the protection of these monument lands for future generations. We celebrate the wisdom and action of Tribal organizations, who outlined the need for protection of these sacred places, and the local citizens who rallied to prevent their degradation. The intrinsic value of these spectacular landscapes for their cultural, scientiﬁc, and historic worth is immense, and the spiritual signiﬁcance and unique habitat value is immeasurable.”
National Parks Conservation Association —Theresa Pierno, President and CEO
“Today’s action is a testament to the Tribal nations, local communities and businesses, conservation organizations and countless people across the country who spoke out and fought tirelessly to protect all that Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments and the surrounding national parks hold. We commend President Biden for taking this step to reverse the previous president’s illegal assault on these most treasured places and for providing the protections this land truly deserves. This is an important step in righting the wrongs and showing so many people across the country who care about preserving our national treasures that they have been heard. Today, we celebrate with all of them.”
Natural Resource Defense Council — Manish Bapna, President and CEO
“This is a victory for science, for future generations, and for anyone who looks to these special places for solace, education, healing, and inspiration. President Biden is restoring faith to millions of people across the country who stood up for these national treasures and opposed Trump’s illegal rollbacks. The Antiquities Act exists to protect unique places like these for all time. No President has the power to abolish those protections with the stroke of a pen.
“This begins a new chapter in managing Bears Ears that respects the Tribes’ traditional knowledge in caring for this living landscape. We stand proudly with the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Pueblo of Zuni, who led the long and visionary effort to protect and restore Bears Ears.”
Patagonia — Ryan Gellert, CEO
“We want to thank the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition for their leadership and thank all of our friends in the Indigenous and environmental communities who have worked to protect Bears Ears National Monument. We also want to thank the Biden administration, especially Secretary Haaland, for their work to restore protections for more than a million acres of sacred land. We have a shared responsibility to conserve these important cultural landscapes for future generations.”
Sierra Club — Chris Hill, Director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign
“The Biden administration’s decision to restore protections for three national monuments fulﬁlls a promise to Tribal Nations and reaffirms its commitment to addressing the overlapping biodiversity and climate crises.
“We are thrilled Secretary Haaland has heeded the call of Tribal Nations to restore safeguards for the sacred lands in Bears Ears.”
“It is clear a cohesive, diverse movement can and will prevail over the proﬁt motivations and injustices perpetrated by the fossil fuel and mining industries. Right now is our moment to chart a path together, rooted in justice, to protect the lands, waters and biodiversity on which we all depend.”
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology — David Polly, Past President
“This move restores the conservation status of more than 1,400 scientiﬁcally important fossil sites that were removed from GSE-NM in 2017, including sauropod swimming tracks, the location where the dinosaur Machairoceratops was discovered, and the Cretaceous-aged mammal sites that helped spur the establishment of the monument in 1996. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase still have important tales to tell about the ancient history of life on our planet, and this action helps ensure that they will be told.”
The Wilderness Society — Jamie Williams, President
“The President’s actions will fulﬁll a promise to restore protections illegally ripped away from national monuments while at the same time ensuring these same lands address the need to tackle the climate and extinction crisis. It also shows a true commitment to working with the Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain, and Zuni Tribes to co-manage their tribal homelands in Bears Ears. It also acknowledges the incredible scientiﬁc importance of Grand Staircase.
“The President’s commitment to saving more nature will continue to require bold action from him and today gets us a bit closer to reaching those goals. This executive action taken by President Biden recognizes the timely work to be done to truly protect 30% of our land and waters by 2030. He and his team can continue to build on this momentum by protecting other important landscapes, especially those of importance to Tribes and underserved communities such as Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada and Castner Range in Texas.”
Western Watersheds Project — Erik Molvar, Executive Director
“Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments are spectacular landscapes, and restoring these monuments shows respect for the land, strong stewardship for their desert ecosystems, and honors the Indigenous peoples who now will have an expanded inﬂuence on their management. Granting full protections to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is critically important to protect these fragile desert lands from exploitation by the livestock industry and mineral extraction corporations.”
Wild Earth Guardians — John Horning, Executive Director
“WildEarth Guardians is elated that President Biden is restoring Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments. We thank the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe for their resolve in leading the ﬁght to protect Bears Ears. Now we can once again get to work preserving the biodiversity and cultural, archeological and paleontological resources of these spectacular landscapes.”
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About Archaeology Southwest
Archaeology Southwest is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, that explores and protects heritage places while honoring their diverse values. For three decades, Archaeology Southwest has fostered meaningful connections to the past and respectfully safeguarded its irreplaceable resources. Learn more at archaeologysouthwest.org.
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