Energy & Environment

Native American tribes call for ‘immediate action’ to protect Bears Ears National Monument: report

Ancient 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.
Ancient granaries, part of the House on Fire ruins are shown here in the South Fork of Mule Canyon in the Bears Ears National Monument outside Blanding, Utah.

Leaders of the Hopi and Navajo tribes on Tuesday called on the Biden administration to take action on two national monuments shrunk under the Trump administration, noting Interior Secretary Deb Haaland submitted her recommendations months ago.

The Obama administration established the Bears Ears National Monument in 2016, but the Trump administration later reduced its boundaries by 85 percent.

In the letter, obtained by The Washington Post, Hopi Vice Chairman Clark W. Tenakhongva and Navajo Nation Representative Henry Stevens Jr. “respectfully request that” President Biden “take immediate action” on the restoration of the boundaries. They noted that Biden ordered a review of the boundaries eight months ago. Haaland in June submitted a report calling for the restoration of the original boundaries, as well as those of the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument.

Tenakhongva and Stevens wrote on behalf of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which also includes representatives of the Zuni, Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes.

Under the reduced borders, they wrote, land sacred to Indigenous people is vulnerable to vandalism and damage without national monument protections.

“Each day that passes without national monument protection for numerous sacred sites and irreplaceable cultural resources risks desecration, looting, vandalism, and misinformed visitation to an area that contains the exact kind of antiquities that inspired the creation of the Antiquities Act,” the letter stated.

In the meantime, Tenakhongva and Stevens wrote, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service have told the coalition they must continue working under the reduced boundaries without specific executive action restoring them.

“In short, without executive action by you, both the BLM and USFS will continue operating under the terms of their 2020 Monument Management Plans, which plans are based on President Trump’s illegally downsized Bears Ears’ boundaries,” they wrote, according to the Post’s copy of the letter. 

In remarks to reporters last week, Haaland said she has “no doubt that President Biden cares deeply about this issue” and that while “there’s a tremendous amount going on right now” politically, “I have every confidence that President Biden will do what he promises.”

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

Tags Deb Haaland Donald Trump Joe Biden

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