American president Joe Biden and his administration are using executive powers to restore environmental protections to Bears Ears National Monument, a large, sacred landscape in Utah. The decision comes four years after former president Donald Trump stripped protections by 82 per cent.
Biden will reinstate the monument’s 1.35 million acre boundaries, the White House said on Friday. Indigenous communities are celebrating the announcement.
“Thank you, President Biden, for restoring Bears Ears National Monument to its original vision of protection by incorporating Antiquities Laws to dissuade vandalism and desecration of our ancestral artifacts and homeland,” Hank Stevens, a spokesperson for the Navajo Nation and co-chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, said in an emailed statement.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous person to hold the post, was instrumental in convincing the administration to restore protections. Biden will also restore protections to two other monuments for which Trump slashed protections: Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine in Rhode Island.
“For us, the Monument never went away. We will always return to these lands to manage and care for our sacred sites, waters, and medicines,” Chairman Shaun Chapoose, Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee and Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, said in an emailed statement.
“The Monument represents a historic opportunity for the federal government to learn and incorporate our tribal land management practices that we developed over centuries and are needed more now than ever.”
Within Bears Ears National Monument are a number of popular rock climbing area, including Indian Creek and Valley of the Gods. Watch legendary climber Yvon Chouinard talk about the decision to reduce Bears Ears in 2017 below.