by Mark Chesnut - Thursday, October 21, 2021
Utah's Bears Ears National Monument, above, is one of three areas affected by Biden's decision.
President Joe Biden’s proclamations last week restoring “monument” status for Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts national monuments has some hunters worried about access in those areas.
Former President Donald Trump shrunk the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, and he lifted a ban on commercial fishing in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument.
While monumental designation does not eliminate hunting, it does affect other uses like livestock grazing as well as oil, gas and mineral extraction. Whether or not this move will affect access to existing hunting opportunities will become known through the development of the management plan for the monuments.
“By restoring these national monuments, which were significantly cut back during the previous administration, President Biden is fulfilling a key promise and upholding the longstanding principle that America’s national parks, monuments and other protected areas are to be protected for all time and for all people,” stated a fact sheet on the topic released by the White House.
While that might sound positive, not everyone agrees. The Utah congressional delegation—including U.S. Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, along with Representatives Chris Stewart, John Curtis, Burgess Owens and Blake Moore—reacted swiftly to the president’s action, roundly criticizing the decision in a joint statement issued the same day.
“President Biden is delivering a devastating blow to the ongoing efforts by our delegation, along with state, local and tribal leaders, to find a permanent, legislative solution to resolve the longstanding dispute over the boundaries and management of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments,” the statement noted. “Rather than take the opportunity to build unity in a divided region and bring resources and lasting protections to sacred antiquities by seeking a mutually beneficial and permanent legislative solution, President Biden fanned the flames of controversy and ignored input from the communities closest to these monuments.”
In addressing how the Biden administration’s move missed the mark, the statement concluded, “We will continue to support efforts to ensure that our monuments’ boundaries and management reflect the unique stakeholder interest and uses in the area, but today’s ‘winner take all’ mentality moved us further away from that goal.
Many Utah state leaders were also distressed by Biden's actions. Gov. Spencer J. Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre M. Henderson, Attorney General Sean Reyes, state Sen. President J. Stuart Adams and state House Speaker Brad Wilson also issued a joint statement condemning the move.
“President Biden’s decision to expand the monuments is disappointing, though not surprising,” the leaders stated. “For the past 10 months, we have consistently offered to work with the Biden administration on a permanent legislative solution, one that would end the perpetual enlarging and shrinking of these monuments and bring certainty to their management. Our goal has been to make lasting progress on managing our public lands for the benefit of all those who use them, particularly those who live on and near those lands.”
The letter explained, “We expected and hoped for closer collaboration between our state and national leaders, especially on matters that directly impact Utah and our citizens. The president’s decision to enlarge the monuments again is a tragic missed opportunity—it fails to provide certainty as well as the funding for law enforcement, research, and other protections which the monuments need and which only Congressional action can offer.”
We’ll keep an eye on these areas as management plans are developed and update readers of this NRA website at a future date.
About the Author
Freelance writer Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC in Jenks, Okla. An avid hunter, shooter and field-trialer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for over 20 years, previously serving as editor of the NRA’s America’s First Freedom.
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