Statement: Biden honors U.S. conservation legacy by restoring protections for Utah, New England monuments

Great day for Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts
For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden is expected to restore protections Friday for three national monuments. The original boundaries for two Utah areas, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, and the original protections for the U.S. Atlantic’s only marine monument, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, will be reinstated after being stripped during the Trump administration. 

This Trump administration shrank the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and cut Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument boundaries nearly in half. This left such endangered species as the Mexican spotted owl and the Southwestern willow flycatcher, who call these areas home, at great risk. Along with protecting the natural beauty and species who live in these areas, more than 100,000  archaeologically significant objects, including grave sites, ceremonial grounds and ancient cliff dwellings, which were at risk from oil drilling and mining, will be safeguarded. 

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which received safeguards in 2016 during the Obama administration, saw its protections rolled back in 2020 as President Donald Trump lifted restrictions on commercial fishing within the monument’s boundaries. Environment America highlighted restoring the marine monument in First Things to Fix, a list of Trump-era rollbacks that the Biden administration should reverse to protect our land, air, water and climate.

Following President Biden’s executive action, the area, which is home to dozens of species of deep sea coral and is an important habitat for whales and other marine mammals, will once again be set to become an entanglement-free zone in the Atlantic Ocean’s U.S. boundaries. This decision will also ensure that the marine monument serves as a refuge for species vulnerable to climate change impacts and as a research area to allow for a better understanding of deep sea ocean ecosystems. 

In response, Steve Blackledge, Environment America’s senior conservation program director, issued the following statement: 

“Our country has a long history of ensuring ‘America the Beautiful’ exists for generations to come. By restoring safeguards to Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, we can rest assured that these treasured areas will remain a part of that lasting legacy.  Because all three of these monuments protect biodiversity and critical habitat, this victory will help the U.S. move closer to protecting 30 percent of our important lands and waters.

“There are so many reasons to rejoice over Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante once again receiving protection. They are home to countless animals, such as eagles, owls and a world-renowned elk population. Visitors come from all over for beautiful hikes, rock climbing, river rafting and wildlife viewing. They are also rich cultural heritage sites and are sacred to many Native Americans who originally lobbied for federal recognition.

“The same is true for New England’s Northeast Canyons and Seamounts. This majestic underwater landscape teems with both large and small life. From whales and dolphins to thousand-year-old deep sea coral, this is a biodiversity hotspot, one that deserves protection in perpetuity.  We are so glad to see the president safeguard this diverse and important ecosystem at the edge of the continental shelf.”