BLOG: Monument Restoration is Crucial Next Step for 30×30

Alex Taurel, Alex_Taurel@lcv.org

Summertime is here. People are getting vaccinated, reconnecting with family and friends, and hitting the road for new adventures. And we finally have a pro-conservation president in the White House again — one who is committed to ambitious national goals of preserving 30 percent of our lands, waters and ocean by 2030. 

Our parks and public lands and waters are more important than ever, proving to be a vital resource throughout the pandemic and the related economic fallout. But if we are going to reach the 30×30 conservation goal and truly expand access to nature, then we need President Biden to take immediate action to restore protections for three national monuments: Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts.  

  • President Obama designated the 1.3 million acre Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah in December 2016 following a historic coming-together of five tribes—known as the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition—who advocated for protecting lands they consider sacred. Bears Ears is also an outdoor paradise, with world-class rock climbing, amazing mountain biking, and spectacular backpacking opportunities. In 2017, Trump cut the Bears Ears monument by 85 percent.
  • President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996, setting aside 1.9 million acres of sandstone cliffs, slickrock, slot canyons, and scenic back roads with views as far as the eye can see. In 2017, Trump cut the monument in half.  
  • President Obama designated the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean: The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in 2016. It is a biodiversity hotspot — home to numerous rare and endangered species. In 2020, Trump rolled back nearly all of the monument’s protections.

Fortunately, the Washington Post just reported that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland recommended President Biden restore protections for all three monuments that were dismantled by the Trump administration. It is no secret that Trump’s monument rollbacks were big handouts to polluters and extractive industries.

We are so close. Thanks in no small part to the tremendous advocacy work from partners as well as engaged supporters across the Conservation Voters Movement (CVM). In fact, check out the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Council’s recently launched six-figure ad campaign asking President Biden to immediately restore and expand Bears Ears National Monument, a call we echo.

Of course, we did not get here overnight. LCV is looking back at CVM and coalition efforts to protect these special places and other monuments at risk during the last administration. 

When the Trump administration began their so-called “review” of national monuments in 2017, LCV and our state partners went immediately to work. 

Former President Trump asked the Interior Department to look at ways to undo 27 national monuments designated by presidents from both parties under the Antiquities Act. Monuments from California to Maine and across the Pacific and Atlantic, including some that had been around for decades, were suddenly under attack. 

LCV launched the “Our Lands, Our Voice” campaign to engage and mobilize community leaders, activists, public officials and the broader public to support America’s majestic national parks and monuments that tell the story of all people in this country – including those places that are the gatekeepers to our nation’s human rights and civil rights history.  

We rallied senators to speak out against the Trump administration and helped gather more than 2.7 million comments in support of keeping our national monuments protected.

We visited many of the threatened national monuments and public lands, often with environmental champions  in Congress, to help demonstrate their tremendous public support and to share the stories of the local communities who have worked to protect these special places. You can find more information about all of these trips here, including our visit to the Carrizo Plain with Representative Salud Carbajal (CA-24) and the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument with Representative Terri Sewell (AL-07).  

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante

In Utah, we joined tribal leaders, the outdoor industry, and local advocates to support Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. 

In July 2017, LCV attended the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, the largest outdoor sports show of its kind featuring thousands of companies who manufacture gear for hiking, camping, fishing, and paddling, to name a few. After 22 years in Salt Lake City, the trade show made the decision that this would be its last year holding the expo in Utah in protest of the anti-public lands policies espoused by the state’s political leadership. Executives from Oru Kayak, Klean Kanteen, and Last Bottle Clothing spoke with LCV about why keeping public lands protected is so important to their business:

During its more than 20 years in existence, Grand Staircase-Escalante has proven to be a strong economic driver for the region. That’s why business groups like the Escalante, Utah Chamber of Commerce spoke against any effort to remove protections for the monument. While LCV was in another one of the monument’s gateway communities—Kanab, Utah—we spoke with local business owners Charles Neumann and Victor Cooper on why we need to protect Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts 

In New England, our state partners worked with scientists, faith leaders, and elected officials to support the first marine national monument in the Atlantic ocean.  

Our partners at the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) have been working to safeguard the 4,913 miles the protected area encompasses, alongside “people from across the country that have raised their voices and taken action to protect it,” explained Lori Brown, executive director of CTLCV.

Reverend Ranjit K. Mathews, of St. James Episcopal Church in New London, CT, drew a distinct connection to the monument with his congregation, noting it’s their duty to protect God’s earth, be good stewards of the lands and waters, and to care for the environment.

The CVM has been proud to be a part of the coalition efforts to protect our public lands and waters and restore protections dismantled by the Trump administration. The Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monuments right now face a range of threats, including vandalism as well as drilling and mining claims and other extractive uses. We need urgent action. 

Join LCV in urging President Biden to restore these monuments.

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