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Mon Apr 12, 2021, 10:24 PM

Haaland Says All Sides Will Be Heard in Utah Monuments Fight

(Cross posting from GD https://www.democraticunderground.com/100215330403 )

BLANDING, Utah—Interior secretary Deb Haaland hiked amid stone landscapes and ancient Native American dwellings Thursday as the Biden administration considers expanding two national monuments that were drastically downsized by former President Donald Trump. Ms. Haaland’s trip here, her first as a cabinet secretary, is being watched closely by the many groups who have stakes in the management of the federal lands she oversees. Her itinerary included meetings with mining companies and ranchers, as well as tribal leaders and environmentalists.

“We are going to listen to every single individual and organization,” Ms. Haaland said in an interview, after hiking part of the Bears Ears National Monument with Utah Republicans including Sen. Mitt Romney. Ms. Haaland noted that the area was “filled with cultural heritage.” But local opposition to restoring the boundaries was underscored by pickup trucks and minivans parked near the site of her meetings, with signs saying, “NO MONUMENT.”

The Biden administration is reviewing the downsizing of Bears Ears and nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had put more than 3 million acres here—most of this corner of the state—under federal protection. The move fueled a longstanding fight about presidential power to limit local control of land, especially across vast swaths of the West. Mr. Trump sided with ranching and mining interests, backed by Utah elected officials, and took a rare step of shrinking those monuments by two-thirds.

Ms. Haaland’s trip is part of a Biden administration review of Mr. Trump’s action. Several tribes, environmental groups and outdoor-recreation companies challenged the boundary reduction, leaving the territory’s status in legal limbo for more than three years. At an afternoon news conference, Ms. Haaland said the ultimate decision rested with Mr. Biden. “My message is very simple: I’m here to listen, I’m here to learn,” she said.

Mr. Romney, who was also at the press conference, said he wants to create more precise designations based on how Native Americans and others want to use the land, calling for a negotiated deal backed by a vote in Congress.


https://www.wsj.com/articles/haaland-explores-restoration-of-utah-monuments-trump-downsized-11617879614 (subscription)

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