United Kingdom

Deb Haaland urges Biden to fully protect three national monuments that Trump targeted with rollbacks

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is urging President Joe Biden to reverse former President Donald Trump's decision to rollback the size of three national monuments.

Boundaries would be restored for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, while fishing protections would be put back in place around the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which is off the Atlantic coast. 

The move, first reported in The Washington Post Monday night, would preserve about 5 million acres of federal land and water. 

A hiker walks over a natural bridge at Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. In 2017, former President Donald Trump decreased the size of Bears Ears by nearly 85 per cent 

A remote cliff located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that former President Donald Trump slashed in size in 2017 by nearly 50 per cent 

An underwater photo of the Seamounts Marine National Monument, which President Barack Obama protected in 2016 and President Donald Trump reopened to commercial fishing in June 2020 

Trump announced in December 2017 he was shrinking the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante, which was designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996, by about half.  

Trump was shrinking Bears Ears National Monument, designated by President Barack Obama a month before he left office, by nearly 85 per cent. 

'He saw it as reversing Obama,' one former official told The Post. 

The protected waters of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument are off the coast of New York and New England 

The newspaper did a deep dive in January 2019 on how a 'diminished' Grand Staircase-Escalante was faring. 

While Trump had hoped the now non-protected lands would attract mining, government officials charged with assessing the 9 billion tons of coal desposits said they were unlikely to attract investors' attention, The Post found.  

Bears Ears, however, has been targeted by looters of Native American cultural sites on the land. 

In June 2020 - amid the coronavirus crisis and en route to a Maine swab factory - Trump signed a proclamation opening the protected waters of the Seamounts Marine National Monument to commercial fishing. 

Again, it was a reversal of an Obama-era decision, as the Democratic ex-president had closed off 5,000 square miles in September 2016 to fishing, to allow the area to recover from overfishing and preserve the whales. 

'We're opening it up today,' Trump said at a roundtable discussion with fishermen. 'We're undoing his executive order,' he said of Obama.

'What was his reason? He didn't have a reason, in my opinion,' Trump said of his predecessor's decision to protect the marine life in the Atlantic waters. 

Haaland, the first Native American to hold a cabinet position, visited Utah in April as she prepared a review for Biden on what to do with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.   

She met with the Bears-Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition - comprised of the five tribes that petitioned Obama to create the national monument. 

Haaland's report was ready earlier this month, but hasn't yet been made public. 

The Biden administration was widely expected to reverse Trump, as the Democrat has made environmental protection a priority.  

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