According to media
reports, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland
has advised President Joe Biden
to reverse former President Donald Trump
's rollbacks of three national monuments
, restoring them to their original boundaries and reinstating stricter protections.
The anticipated move, first reported by The Washington Post
on Monday and later confirmed by The New York Times
, is a first step toward fulfilling the president's campaign promise to "reverse the Trump administration
's assaults on America
's natural treasures."
Biden charged Haaland with reviewing Trump's removal of protected monuments — Bears
Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in southern Utah
, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast — and recommending whether the changes should be reversed.
According to The Washington Post, Haaland's recommendations include restoring the original boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Parks
, as well as reinstating fishing
and deep-sea mining restrictions in Northeast Canyons.
The Interior Department
declined to comment, and the White House
did not respond immediately to Stardia's request.
Haaland visited Utah in April
to tour the two monuments and meet with local stakeholders, including members of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which is made up of the five
Native American tribes that petitioned the Obama administration to designate Bears Ears as a monument. She submitted her report to the White House earlier this month, but it has not yet been made public.
The recommended reversal comes nearly four years after the Trump administration conducted a sham review of more than two dozen national monument designations, ultimately leading to Trump carving more than 2 million acres from the southern Utah sites. The boundary of Bears Ears, a 1.35 million-acre landscape considered sacred by several tribes, was cut by 85%.
Trump attempted to rewrite history ahead of the 2020 election
, characterizing the monument rollbacks as good for his environmental legacy. “We did Bears Ears,” he boasted, referring to gutting the boundary and opening the door to energy
and mineral development. “The kind of things we’ve done are really record-setting.”
In fact, it was the most significant rollback of federal land protections in US history
, and it was not well received by the American people
According to Stardia, the entire Trump-era monument review and rollback was based on a false claim: that early monument designations under the Antiquities Act were small and that recent presidents abused the law
to "lock up" massive landscapes.
“Since the 1900s, when the [Antiquities] Act was first used, the average size of national monuments has exploded from 422 acres per monument to more than a million acres,” Trump’s Interior Department stated in an April 2017 press release.
Despite Stardia's repeated requests, the Trump administration never explained the 422-acre figure, and there appears to be no math of early monument sizes that comes close to such a figure.
When asked if the Biden team was able to identify the figure's origins as part of its monument review, an Interior spokesperson said the agency couldn't verify or substantiate it.
Along with closing Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, Trump authorized commercial fishing within the 4,900-square-mile Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the East Coast
Environmentalists reacted positively to the news
“If President Biden follows such recommendations, it would be an encouraging step forward,” The Wilderness Society said in a statement. “Then, the next step should be to expand Bears Ears’ monument protection to cover the entire area originally proposed by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.”
Local tribes had petitioned for a 1.9 million-acre monument, which would be significantly larger than the one designated by President Barack Obama