For Immediate Release
January 20, 2021
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signaled that he will sign an Executive Order titled Tackling Climate Change, Creating Good Union Jobs, and Advancing Environmental Justice that commits the administration to reviewing the current geographic boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.
“Western Watersheds Project applauds the Biden administration’s commitment to re-examine lands that should be protected within Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, which were redrawn and gutted by President Trump, and we hope that this leads to the full and complete restoration of these extraordinary crown jewels,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “In addition, Western Watersheds Project supports the full designation of the 1.9-million-acre Bears Ears monument as originally proposed by the tribes, protecting even more of this spectacular landscape than the previous boundaries.”
In December of 2017, the Trump administration chopped back the original 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument to 228,000 acres, and reduced the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from 1.9 million acres to 1 million acres. These reductions left ancient cliff dwellings, rock art, fossil deposits, and spectacular recreation lands unprotected. Within the shrunken Monuments that remained, the Trump administration issued new plans that opened up closed areas to livestock grazing and otherwise reduced environmental protections. Just months later, lands within the former Monument boundaries were degraded by irresponsible off-road vehicle use, vegetation removal, and seeding tens of thousands of acres with exotic plants for livestock forage.
“Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante contain priceless and irreplaceable Indigenous cultural sites and cliff dwellings, and these fragile desert ecosystems need to be protected from livestock grazing, off-road vehicle abuse, and the massive projects to destroy pinyon-juniper woodlands that were either proposed or took place on Trump’s watch,” said Molvar. “Restoring the boundaries immediately, followed by science-based management plans, is imperative to prevent further abuse.”
Western Watersheds Project is currently a plaintiff in lawsuits challenging Trump’s reduction of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, together with co-plaintiffs Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Grand Canyon Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife. The groups are represented by an attorney team led by Earthjustice.