Count on Biden to restore the national monuments Trump trashed

This
story
was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as
part of the Climate Desk
collaboration.

President Donald Trump’s legacy on
public lands is a four-year war against protected wild places,
which has included dismantling Utah’s Bears Ears and
Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

That legacy will follow him long after
he’s out of the White House. But many of the rollbacks are
unlikely to survive the incoming Democratic administration.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice
President-elect Kamala Harris have vowed to not only restore the
Utah monuments, but designate new protected sites to safeguard
ecologically important landscapes and combat the global climate
crisis.

“As president, Biden will take
immediate steps to reverse the Trump administration’s assaults on
America’s natural treasures, including by reversing Trump’s
attacks on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Bears Ears, and
Grand Staircase-Escalante,” reads their comprehensive plan for tribal nations, which the campaign released in
October.

The incoming administration’s
plan for combating the climate crisis similarly notes that
Biden will protect “areas impacted by President Trump’s attack
on federal lands and waters,” as well as establish national
monuments and parks “that reflect America’s natural
heritage.”

Biden campaign spokesperson Matt Hill
told HuffPost that “everything we’ve put out there in campaign
policies/statements still stands, but we don’t have more details
beyond that at this time.”

In late 2017, after a sham review of recent national
monument designations, Trump carved more than 2 million acres from
the southern Utah sites. The boundary of Bears Ears, a 1.35
million-acre landscape that several tribes consider sacred, was cut
by 85 percent. Nearby 1.87 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante, the
largest land national monument in the country and rich in both
archeological and paleontological resources, was cut roughly in
half.

The administration has also finalized plans to open the coastal
plain of Alaska’s fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an
area that the Indigenous Gwich’in people of northern Alaska and
Canada call “the sacred place where life
begins
,” to oil drilling; green-lighted commercial fishing
within Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a
4,900-square-mile protected site off the East Coast; and bulldozed and blasted Indigenous
cultural and burial sites within Organ Pipe Cactus National
Monument, a UNESCO biosphere reserve, to make way for Trump’s
wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

President Donald Trump
signs the hat of Bruce Adams, chair of the San Juan County
Commission, after signing a proclamation in December 2017 to shrink
the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national
monuments in southern Utah. Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images

The pendulum swings

Upon taking office, the Trump
administration prioritized undoing President Barack Obama’s
legacy, everything from monument designations to a slew of climate
policies aimed at reining in greenhouse gas emissions. The
pro-industry, anti-conservation crusade came amid
dual climate and extinction crises, as experts around the globe
stressed the importance of preserving still-intact ecosystems that
sequester carbon and provide refuge for imperiled species.

Former Vice President Biden, who
clinched the 2020 presidential victory on November 7, has signaled
that he plans to swing back with a frenzy of early executive actions.
While rejoining the Paris climate accord and repealing Trump’s
travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority nations are expected
to be Day 1 priorities, rolling back Trump’s monument rollbacks
likely won’t be too far behind.

The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition,
made up of the five Native American tribes that petitioned the
Obama administration to grant Bears Ears monument status, has
already had intermediary discussions with Biden’s team, according
to Keala Carter, the coalition’s public lands specialist.

“All indications seem to point to
that we should have great faith in the Biden administration to
uphold and build on what the Obama administration did,” she told
HuffPost by phone. “It’s evident that Bears Ears in particular
really hits at the intersection or some sort of crossroads of
racial justice, public lands, and planning for a changing climate
— I get the sense that it’s going to be really relevant to the
sort of change the Biden administration wants to pursue.”

How quickly the Biden administration
might move to restore Bears Ears remains to be seen. More important
than speed, Carter said, is a desire among area tribes to see it
done in a way that is lasting and legally defensible.

“One of the things in particular we
are anticipating is that Biden’s team is going to understand the
nuance and be able to think through solutions that might not be as
vulnerable,” she said.

The coalition argued it was largely
cut out of Trump’s monument
review process. Tribes promptly filed a lawsuit challenging
Trump’s proclamation in December 2017 shrinking the Bears Ears
boundary; the lawsuit was later combined with other legal
challenges to the monument rollbacks. Plaintiffs in the cases argue
that Congress, not the president, has the sole legal power to shrink,
rescind or weaken protections for monuments designated under the
Antiquities Act. The U.S. District Court for the District of
Columbia has yet to rule in the consolidated lawsuit.

Sixteen presidents have used the
Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate 157 monuments.

Two Utah National Momments Under Review By Deparetment of InteriorAncient granaries, part
of the House on Fire ruins, are shown here in the South Fork of
Mule Canyon in the Bears Ears National Monument on May 12, 2017,
outside Blanding, Utah. George Frey / Getty Images

While Trump’s monument review
initially threatened more than two dozen sites, Bears Ears was the
primary target. Trump called the Obama-era designation an
“egregious abuse of federal power” — one that “should never
have happened.” What Trump and his team never acknowledged,
however, is that Bears Ears included a compromise. Local tribes had
petitioned for a 1.9 million-acre monument, much larger than the
one designated in 2016, but President Barack Obama opted not to
include uranium-rich areas so that Energy Fuels Resources, a local
uranium company, had room to expand. Still, Energy Fuels joined
other industry groups in lobbying Trump to shrink the monument.

’A direct affront’ to tribes

Biden’s spokesperson did not
respond to HuffPost’s question about whether the incoming
administration is currently eyeing specific sites for new monuments
or other protections. But there is plenty of reason to expect that
Biden will implement an aggressive conservation agenda that
includes Antiquities Act designations.

Biden has committed to signing an
executive order to conserve 30 percent of America’s lands and
waters by 2030 — a goal in line with the United Nations’
plan for protecting biodiversity.
And the Biden-Harris plan for tribal nations notes that the
administration “will work with tribal governments and Congress to
protect sacred sites and public lands and waters with high
conservation and cultural values,” as well as “provide tribes
with a greater role in the care and management of public lands that
are of cultural significance to Tribal Nations.”

Senator Tom Udall, a Democrat from
New Mexico who is reportedly on the Biden’s shortlist of candidates to lead the
Interior Department, told HuffPost in an email Tuesday that
Trump’s decision to gut Bears Ears was “illegal” and “a
direct affront to the Tribal Nations that built a historic
coalition to conserve its cultural landscape.” And he applauded
Biden’s commitment to protect America’s natural and cultural
heritage.

“Nature provides our life support
system — food, shelter, medicine, clean air and water,” Udall
said. “The threats to our natural world are in fact threats to
humanity. Going forward, we must harness the model of local
coalitions coming together to protect our most special and
threatened wild places. And we must use science to guide us in
preserving high value places that protect the critical biodiversity
we all depend on. That’s the vision that will define the
Biden-Harris administration.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
Count on Biden to restore the national monuments Trump trashed

on Nov 21, 2020.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
Count on Biden to restore the national monuments Trump
trashed