Last week, the administration restored protections to three public lands: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
On October 7, President Joe Biden restored protections for three priceless national monuments. This action reverses proclamations issued on two separate occasions during the previous administration, which had left these nationally significant lands and waters vulnerable to a variety of incompatible uses.
In December 2017, President Donald Trump signed two proclamations attempting to remove federal protections from roughly 2 million acres of land in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah. This act, which NPCA maintains is illegal, was the largest reduction of public land protections in U.S. history. The proclamations opened lands to off-road vehicle use, habitat destruction and potentially harmful development. Hundreds of sacred and cultural sites and extraordinary troves of scientific and paleontological resources were put at unnecessary risk.
These boundary reductions also left the national park sites that surround the monuments — Bryce Canyon and Canyonlands National Parks, Capitol Reef National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Natural Bridges National Monument — vulnerable to mining and oil and gas development, incompatible rights of way, increased off-highway vehicle access, and other uses that failed to protect the natural and cultural resources for which these places were designated.
In June 2020, Trump signed a separate proclamation opening all 5,000 square miles of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument to industrial commercial fishing — a practice that goes against the purpose of the monument, which promotes scientific research and protects a diversity of marine wildlife, including corals, fish, sea turtles, seabirds, sharks and whales.
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is the first and only national monument in the Atlantic Ocean. Its boundaries were narrowly tailored to protect three underwater canyons, each deeper than the Grand Canyon, and the only four underwater mountains (known as seamounts) found along the Atlantic Coast, which rise higher above the seafloor than all the mountains east of the Rockies.
Commercial fishing has already harmed this part of the ocean — the monument was created to stop the industry from causing more damage.
Biden’s proclamations last week restore full protections to all three of these monuments.
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NPCA celebrates this victory with all those who fought tirelessly to protect these places. These sites are sacred to Indigenous nations. They hold centuries of human history. They protect iconic public landscapes. And they deserve the utmost protection, now and always.
NPCA believes that a threat to one national monument is a threat to all. Tribal nations, local communities and businesses, conservation organizations, and countless people across the country spoke out in support of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, and NPCA staff are pleased that the Biden administration has answered this call and provided the protections these treasured lands and waters truly deserve.
Multiple NPCA staff members contributed to this story.