National and regional environmental organizations called on President BidenJoe BidenFighter jet escorts aircraft that entered restricted airspace during UN gathering Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy FBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp MORE to restore the boundaries of national monuments shrunk by the Trump administration, urging the White House to take action more than two months after the Interior Department submitted recommendations.
The Trump Interior Department reduced the boundaries of Bears Ears monument by about 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly 50 percent. In June, Biden's Interior Secretary Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Haaland calls for attention for slain Indigenous women amid Petito case Haaland calls for 'balance' in federal oil and gas program MORE recommended the earlier boundaries be restored, as well as rolling back another Trump-era decision allowing commercial fishing in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off Massachusetts.
However, the letter from environmentalists noted the White House has yet to fully restore the protections more than two months after Haaland submitted her recommendations.
“Every day that passes, the threat of irreversible damage to these special places increases,” the Aug. 31 letter states. “For Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in particular, the threats from oil and gas leasing and toxic uranium mining have been heightened in recent days with troubling steps that your own Administration has taken to both incentivize uranium mining and resume oil and gas leasing on public lands.”
Signers of the letter include the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Grand Canyon Trust and Friends of the Earth.
In particular, the letter notes that several uranium mining claims have been made on the land in Bears Ears after the Trump administration removed protections. Many of these claims were made under the Biden administration during the boundary review process. The administration is also exploring creating a strategic uranium reserve, which the organizations say would “effectively subsidize” uranium mining and create further demand for mining claims.
Separately, oil and gas companies are eyeing more than 40,000 acres of land within the original Bears Ears boundaries for drilling. While the administration temporarily suspended new oil and gas leasing on federal lands in January, it has since resumed some leasing after a court order halting the freeze.
“Even the slimmest possibility of fossil fuel leasing within the boundaries of Bears Ears or Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments should be unthinkable, as leasing these nominated parcels or any other parcels within these monuments would create imminent threats to the cultural, historic, and natural treasures in the area,” the letter states.
The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.