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The Southwest Utah Bureau is based in the St. George area, and the reporting focuses on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues, faith and spirituality and other topics of relevance to Utahns.

Biden Says He’ll Review Most Of Trump’s Actions On Public Lands, Including Monument Reductions

Golden Cathedral
Trump reduced the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by almost 50% and the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85% in 2017 at the behest of Utah officials like former Sen. Orrin Hatch.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday directing federal agencies to review a long list of changes former President Donald Trump made to environmental regulations and the management of public lands, as well as his reduction of national monuments.

“Everything from [the] spotted owl habitat, to drilling in the arctic, to the destruction at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, all of that is going to be looked at here in short order,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities.

Weiss said the executive order includes most of the major changes made to public lands management under Trump, but they won’t all be reversed at once.

Technically, Biden isn’t promising to reverse any of the actions, Weiss added. He is simply directing agency heads, like the incoming secretary of the interior, to review them. But Weiss said that’s a good thing.

"That's how you make sure things are done properly, [so] they hold up to legal challenges from oil and gas and coal," he added.

An announcement from Biden’s transition team said the executive order specifically directs the incoming interior secretary to review “the boundaries and conditions” of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, fulfilling a promise in Biden’s Tribal Nations Plan to “take immediate steps” to reverse “Trump’s attacks” on the monuments.

And while the restoration of the monuments likely won’t happen immediately, supporters are celebrating the move.

“It’s just a great day overall,” said Woody Lee, executive director of Utah Diné Bikéyah, a Navajo-led group that pushed for the Bears Ears designation.

“We do appreciate all the efforts of those that have supported Utah Diné Bikéyah and the Bears Ears Coalition to have [the] monument being restored,” he added.

Lee said his group would like Biden to enlarge Bears Ears to 1.9 million acres, as initially requested by the tribes, rather than the 1.35 million acres designated by former President Barack Obama in 2016, but they will be happy either way.

Trump reduced the size of Grand Staircase by almost 50% and the size of Bears Ears by 85% in 2017 at the behest of Utah officials like former Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Gov. Spencer Cox, who was sworn in earlier this month, also opposes the re-enlargement of both monuments, according to a policy document recently released by his administration.

He signed on to a joint statement opposing the review issued Wednesday afternoon by Utah’s Congressional delegation and other state leaders.

It says the review will inevitably lead to the restoration of both monuments and “will only deepen divisions in this country.” Instead, it asks the Biden administration to work with the State of Utah to reach “a permanent solution approved by Congress.”

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