Home Posts Deb Haaland Sends President A Recommendation Regarding Utah Monuments
Deb Haaland Sends President A Recommendation Regarding Utah Monuments
Deb Haaland

Deb Haaland Sends President A Recommendation Regarding Utah Monuments

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has made a recommendation on whether to reverse former President Donald Trump's decision to shrink two sprawling national monuments in Utah, but the details of her decision have not been made public.

According to a court filing Thursday in a legal battle that began three years ago after Trump's decision, the Interior Department delivered her report to President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Attorneys for the United States Department of Justice referred to the report in a request for an extension of time until July 13 to respond to the judge's question about whether the legal battle has become moot.

Melissa Schwartz, an Interior Department spokeswoman, refused to comment on the report.

In April, Haaland traveled to Utah to visit the monuments, becoming the latest cabinet official to intervene in a long-running public lands debate, and the first Indigenous official to do so.

A number of US officials have heard from supporters of expanding national monuments to protect archaeological and cultural sites, as well as opponents who see such moves as excessive federal power.

Biden directed Haaland to investigate whether the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument should be restored. Native American tribes supported President Barack Obama's creation of Bears Ears, but Republican state leaders opposed it. Grand Staircase is older, but it has long been a source of contention for conservative state leaders who consider both monuments U.S. governable.

Under the Trump administration, Bears Ears National Monument was reduced by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly half.

The reductions cleared the way for potential coal mining and oil and gas drilling on previously off-limits lands, though such activity has been limited due to market dynamics.

Bears Ears encompasses Native American sacred lands where red rocks reveal petroglyphs and cliff dwellings and distinctive twin buttes protrude from a grassy valley.

According to Utah Gov. Spencer Cox's spokeswoman, Jennifer Napier-Pearce, Interior officials informed him that the report had been delivered to the White House but did not provide any details about the findings.

Cox and other prominent Utah Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, have expressed concern about the review and met with Haaland during her visit. Cox has stated that if the monuments are enlarged without congressional approval, the state will likely sue.

The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition's executive director, Pat Gonzales-Rogers, said the group learned about the report through a court filing and hasn't been given any additional information, but the coalition remains hopeful that the Biden administration will reverse Trump's decision.

“We’re on the sidelines, but we’re hopeful,” Gonzales-Rogers said.

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