NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

Deb Haaland recommends that Joe Biden restore national monuments gutted by Trump

U.S. Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary Deb Haa­land has called on Pres­i­dent Biden to restore both the size and pro­tec­tions giv­en to three nation­al mon­u­ments that were slashed and opened to oil and gas explo­ration and com­mer­cial use dur­ing the Trump Regime.

The mon­u­ments are Bears Ears in south­east Utah, a land of Native Amer­i­can cliff dwellings and bur­ial grounds in south­east Utah; Grand Stair­case-Escalante in the canyon­lands of south­ern Utah; and a marine pre­serve off the New Eng­land coast that Trump opened to com­mer­cial fishing.

Using his author­i­ty under the 1906 Antiq­ui­ties Act, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma cre­at­ed the Bears Ears Nation­al Mon­u­ment in 2016 short­ly before leav­ing office.

Valley of the Gods, Bears Ears, Utah

The Val­ley of the Gods in Utah, part of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s Bears Ears nation­al mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tion, was among the trea­sures removed from the mon­u­ment by Don­ald Trump. Joe Biden now has a chance to undo that action. (Pho­to:
Mobilus In Mobili, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Pres­i­dent Clin­ton des­ig­nat­ed Grand Stair­case-Escalante in 1992.

Oba­ma also cre­at­ed the big, 4,913-square mile North­east Canyons and Seamounts Mar­itime Nation­al Mon­u­ment off Cape Cod.

His­tor­i­cal­ly allied with the min­ing indus­try – all the way back to when Theodore Roo­sevelt cre­at­ed a Grand Canyon Nation­al Mon­u­ment – politi­cians in Utah and the South­west have fought mon­u­ment and nation­al park designation.

The Bee­hive State’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion was buzzing again at Haaland’s rec­om­men­da­tion. Gov­er­nor Spencer Cox, R‑Utah, said in a state­ment: “There’s a bet­ter way and I look for­ward to talk­ing with the Pres­i­dent about how to find a last­ing solu­tion that’s bet­ter for the land and every­one involved.”

Utah House Speak­er Brad Wil­son said land use deci­sions should not be dic­tat­ed by “politi­cians, bureau­crats and spe­cial inter­est groups.”

A Toadstools sunset

Sun­set at the Toad­stools, one of the most incred­i­ble geo­log­ic fea­tures in Grand Stair­case-Escalante Nation­al Mon­u­ment (Pho­to: James Mar­vin Phelps, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Such sen­ti­ments will bring tears to your eyes, if you hap­pen to be a croc­o­dile.  There was no con­sul­ta­tion in 2017 when Trump loud­ly cut the guts out of both mon­u­ments. Bears Ears was reduced from 1.3 mil­lion acres to two seg­ments total­ing 215,000 acres, with the drillers invit­ed to bid on delet­ed por­tions. Grand Stair­case-Escalante was cut from 1.9 mil­lion acres to 800,000 acres.

Once more, a rad­i­cal­ized Repub­li­can Par­ty betrayed what was a con­ser­va­tion lega­cy. Three nation­al parks in Utah began as nation­al mon­u­ments and received their ini­tial pro­tec­tion from Repub­li­can pres­i­dents. William Howard Taft set aside what became Zion Nation­al Park. War­ren G. Hard­ing pro­tect­ed what’s now Bryce Canyon Nation­al Park from over­graz­ing and tree cut­ting. Her­bert Hoover des­ig­nat­ed the mon­u­ment that is now Arch­es Nation­al Park.

The “West­ern Cau­cus”, con­sist­ing of con­ser­v­a­tive House Repub­li­cans – cur­rent­ly chaired by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dan New­house, R‑Washington – has pur­sued two goals, emas­cu­lat­ing the Antiq­ui­ties Act with pres­i­den­tial pow­ers to set aside mon­u­ments, and evis­cer­at­ing the Endan­gered Species Act.

The case for a Bears Ears Nation­al Mon­u­ment was made for years by Native Amer­i­can groups in the South­west, against furi­ous oppo­si­tion led by offi­cials and leg­is­la­tors from Utah’s San Juan Coun­ty, and now-retired U.S. Sen­a­tor Orin Hatch, R‑Utah. The argu­ment rang famil­iar to those who have wit­nessed Pacif­ic North­west wilder­ness bat­tles, the claim that feds were going to “lock up” the land. West­ern writer Edward Abbey once quipped: “Vis­i­tors are always wel­come in the Bee­hive State. Just set your watch back fifty years.”

Well, cul­tur­al sites need to be protected.

Sec­re­tary Haa­land put it best after tour­ing Bears Ears in April, telling The Guardian: “There are some pret­ty amaz­ing ruins there and you know, I don’t even like to call them ruins because to our cul­ture, in Pueblo cul­ture if you acknowl­edge our ances­tors, they are there. The spir­it of the peo­ple nev­er leaves.”

Haa­land is America’s first Native Amer­i­can Cab­i­net secretary.

She is a mem­ber of the Lagu­na Pueblo, elect­ed to Con­gress from New Mex­i­co in 2018 before her nom­i­na­tion to head the Inte­ri­or Depart­ment two years lat­er.  Repub­li­can sen­a­tors rep­re­sent­ing Indi­an Coun­try in the Moun­tain West vig­or­ous­ly opposed her con­fir­ma­tion. But Alaska’s trio of GOP law­mak­ers, Sen­a­tors Lisa Murkows­ki and Dan Sul­li­van and Rep. Don Young, sup­port­ed Haa­land and praised her work help­ing put togeth­er the 2020 Great Amer­i­can Out­doors Act.

The Trump down­siz­ing of Bears Ears and Grand Stair­case-Escalante served to put pub­lic focus on both areas. Patag­o­nia used mon­ey from the Repub­li­cans’ 2017 tax cut to help finance a legal chal­lenge to Trump’s actions. Rock climb­ing groups ral­lied to defense of Bears Ears. In a tweet on Mon­day, the Nat­ur­al Resources Defense Coun­cil said: “Thank you to the Indige­nous activists lead­ing this fight and Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary Deb Haa­land for this impor­tant recommendation.”

It is still a recommendation.

Haa­land was care­ful to meet in April with Gov­er­nor Cox and U.S. Sen­a­tor Mitt Rom­ney, R‑Utah, who was elect­ed to take Hatch’s seat in 2018.

Chances are, with Romney’s posi­tion in the Sen­ate, the Utah con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion will get the chance to make its case.

Trolling for votes from the fish­eries indus­try, Trump last year reopened the North­east Canyons and Seamounts Mon­u­ment to com­mer­cial fish­ing, which obvi­at­ed much of the pro­tec­tion giv­en the area. As cre­at­ed by Oba­ma, the mon­u­ment pro­hib­it­ed seabed min­ing and most fish­ing, although lob­ster and crab boat oper­a­tors were giv­en a sev­en year grace period.

Bamboo coral

Bam­boo coral in North­east Canyons and Seamounts Marine Nation­al Mon­u­ment (Pho­to: NOAA)

Pres­i­dent Biden has a lot on his plate, includ­ing seafood.

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