Watchdog: “The Biden administration must move forward with other priorities like creating new protections and monuments, and reforming the public lands leasing program without further delay.”

Washington, D.C. — President Biden is expected to issue a proclamation tomorrow that will reverse some of the Trump administration’s most damaging anti-conservation measures, starting with restoring protections for Bears Ears National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. In response, government watchdog Accountable.US released the following statement calling on the administration to continue down the path of bold, much-needed climate action by taking swift action to reform the public lands leasing program:

“President Biden’s decision to reinstate protections for monuments slashed and jeopardized by the Trump administration to benefit its industry allies is a huge win for native tribes and American families who have cherished these lands for generations. This is exactly the type of bold leadership we need from the White House,” said Kyle Herrig, president of government watchdog Accountable.US. “If President Biden is going to meet his critically important conservation and climate goals, he can’t stop with restoring monuments. The Biden administration must move forward with other priorities like creating new protections and monuments, and reforming the public lands leasing program without further delay.”

The Trump administration’s assault on public lands and waters cemented the former president’s anti-conservation legacy. Trump’s illegal reduction of national monuments stripped native tribes of the land protections they sought, endangered local marine ecosystems by opening waters to commercial fishing, and opened previously protected desert landscapes to oil and mining exploration. Behind Trump’s motivations for reducing these protections lies fringe anti-public lands zealots and extractive industries prioritizing their personal profits over protecting our public lands — pulling his strings like a puppet. These same actors and industries are continuing to fight Biden’s bold conservation and climate agenda.

With the Biden administration already resuming oil and gas leasing on public lands in August, time is of the essence for the President and his team to get to work on leasing reform.

Background:

  • Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante are national treasures and sacred tribal lands that the Obama and Clinton administrations designated national monuments.
     
  • Bears Ears obtained monument status under the Obama administration in 2016 in response to years of advocacy from a consortium of Native American tribes, including the local Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, and Ute tribes as well as several tribes from outside the monument areas.
     
  • Because the Antiquities Act gives the president sole discretion to designate new monuments, the Obama Administration’s invitation of public and stakeholder participation resulted in unprecedented, tribally-led protection for the Bears Ears National Monument.
     
  • In 2017, after ignoring an overwhelming majority of public comments opposing the reduction and fierce protests from tribal governments, The Trump administration slashed national monument protections in Utah. The move, which downsized Bears Ears National Monument by a whopping 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante by 46%, constituted the largest reduction in public lands protections in U.S. history in an historic giveaway to extractive industries that allowed them to operate on previously protected lands.
     
  • Trump’s reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase ignored the will of local tribes and, in the words of Navajo Nation Oljato Chapter President James Adakai, “fundamentally undermine(d)” tribal sovereignty.
     
  • Instead, Trump’s move to reduce the monuments’ protected land served to appease the oil and gas industry, which sought to slash the monuments’ size. Trump also aligned himself with anti-public lands extremists like the Bundy family and several disgraced Utah legislators, who opposed Obama-era national monument designations and championed the administration’s efforts to reduce their size — often for their own personal benefit.   

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