President Biden orders a review of Bears Ears

In one of his first acts as President of the United States, Joe Biden issued an executive order directing the Department of the Interior to review the boundaries and conditions of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Bears Ears, in San Juan County, was designated by President Barack Obama in 2016. The boundaries of the monument, initially 1.35 million acres, were cut by 85 percent in 2017 by President Donald Trump.

While Biden was expected to issue a flurry of executive orders in his first day in office, it was not widely anticipated that the Bears Ears issue would be addressed in the initial actions.

In addition, Deb Haaland has been nominated to serve as the Secretary of the Interior in the Biden Administration. If confirmed, Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo from New Mexico, will be the first Native American to serve as a member of a Presidential Cabinet.

The Department of the Interior oversees the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education. 

These federal entities in particular have a significant impact on the lives of San Juan County residents.

Additional executive orders are also expected to have a local impact, including an expected moratorium on issuing new oil and gas leases.

Less than one week after taking office, Biden has issued more than 40 broad-based executive orders that will have a significant impact across the nation, in addition to the orders that have a specific impact on San Juan County.

The Utah delegation in Congress and State of Utah officials issued the following statement after Biden announced the review of Bears Ears National Monument:

“For over 25 years Utah has been the center of controversial and divisive unilateral national monument decisions. Roughly two-thirds of our backyard belongs to the federal government, which has meant land management actions have often been done to us rather than with us.

“A review in name only with predetermined results, which ultimately leads to a unilateral executive order enlarging the monuments’ boundaries, will not solve the root of the problem and will only deepen divisions in this country.

“We share a sincere desire to find a collaborative, broadly-supported solution to the political football of national monuments in Utah, specifically Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments.

“It is imperative that President Biden bring the State of Utah to the table and work with state and local elected leaders toward a consensus product, including a permanent solution approved by Congress.

“President Biden championed a message of unity during his campaign, and we stand ready to work across party lines towards a permanent solution.”

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