President Biden on Friday signed three proclamations that restore environmental protections to two national monuments in Utah and a marine conservation area in New England, protections that had been stripped during former President Trump‘s time in the White House.
Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine national monuments will have their protections restored.
“National monuments and parks are part of our identity as a people,” Biden said shortly before signing the documents. “They’re the birthright we pass from generation to generation, a birthright of every American.”
The restoration of the Bears Ears National Monument brings back the boundaries set by former President Obama in 2016 and retains protections for an additional 11,200 acres added by Trump in 2017. The action will ensure that the total protected area of the Bears Ears National Monument covers 1.36 million acres.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, was disappointed in Biden’s decision to restore Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments, which the Trump administration downsized significantly in 2017.
Grand Staircase-Escalante was first protected in 1996. Biden’s move restores protected area to 1.87 million acres.
The monuments cover vast expanses of southern Utah where red rocks reveal petroglyphs and cliff dwellings and distinctive buttes bulge from a grassy valley. Trump invoked the Antiquities Act to cut 2 million acres from the two monuments, calling restrictions on mining and other energy production a “massive land grab” that “should never have happened.”
The Trump administration’s reductions to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante paved the way for potential coal mining and oil and gas drilling on lands that were previously off-limits.