Utah political leaders believe Biden’s decision on Bears Ears limits “imminent”
BLANDING, Utah – Utah political leaders believe that a decision by President Biden on whether to restore the original boundaries of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments is “imminent.”
“We heard that an announcement was coming,” Representative Phil Lyman, R-Blanding told FOX 13 on Wednesday.
Members of the Utah State Legislature and Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson walked part of the Bears Ears National Monument on Wednesday after visit the community of Westwater, which has no infrastructure and is looking for help with improvements.
“It’s a long-standing problem in the legislature,” Lt. Gov. Henderson said of Bears Ears. “And a lot of them have never been there before.”
The monument was created by President Obama in 2016. The following year, President Trump reduced the monument’s boundaries from 1.3 million acres to 201,876 acres. Now President Biden is wondering whether to reverse that or extend the limits even further.
“We’ve heard rumors, but we haven’t heard anything official yet,” Lt. Gov. Henderson told FOX 13. “I don’t know when that will happen, but I think it’s imminent. “
Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said he believed the Biden administration would restore the original borders, which tribal groups urged the U.S. government to do.
“Anytime you add land mass to our Indian country? We think it’s a good thing,” the vice president said on Wednesday. “So if that minimizes oil and gas exploration? That’s probably a good thing.”
After President Trump reduced the boundaries of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, a coalition of tribal and environmental groups filed a lawsuit. These lawsuits have been in limbo since Home Secretary Deb Haaland traveled to Utah to visit the monuments, pending a ruling from President Biden.
The US Department of the Interior made no comment on the impending decision when contacted by FOX 13 on Thursday, but Secretary Haaland has would have recommended that the boundaries of the monument be restored to their original size.
“What I understand is that this will revert to the original limits designated by President Obama,” said Representative Lyman.
If this occurs, the Cox administration threatened a new trial, challenging the presidential use of the Antiquities Act, which is used to create national monuments. Gov. Spencer Cox and members of the Utah Congressional delegation sought to meet with President Biden ahead of any announcements.
“We were hoping Congress would help us understand this instead of using the Antiquities Act,” said Lieutenant Governor Henderson. “I think there will have to be legal action. We have to sit down at the table. We care about these lands, but we absolutely have to have a say in how they are managed.”
Vice President Lizer said restoring the monument’s boundaries will continue to protect Native American historic sites.
“You have to protect places like this because it reminds us of where we came from and it will always point us in the direction in which we want to go,” he said.
Representative Lyman, who appeared on stage with President Trump when he signed a proclamation reducing the boundaries of monuments, said if they were restored he wanted the federal government to devote more resources to them. He recently has partnered with a Democratic counterpart to push for legislation to create a visitor center and resources for tourists visiting the Bears Ears National Monument.
“If the federal government wants to come and take control of real estate in Utah, it should take some responsibility for that as well,” he said. “They never do that. They just want to tell us how to make it work.”