On October 8, President Biden issued proclamations restoring the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.
WildEarth Guardians is grateful to the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe for their leadership in advocating for the swift restoration of Bears Ears. I’d also like to thank our members and supporters who wrote President Biden over 14,000 times urging him to restore these national monuments.
The proclamations immediately renewed protections for innumerable cultural and paleontological sites on public lands in southern Utah. Biden’s orders fulfilled a campaign promise and came four years after Trump gutted two million acres from the monuments in 2017.
From a biodiversity standpoint, it is difficult to overstate the importance of protecting these two places. Bears Ears is in the top 10 percent of similarly sized places in the American West for both ecological intactness and connectivity—two factors considered essential for biodiversity and landscape-level conservation. Grand Staircase-Escalante is in the top four percent for ecological intactness and the top six percent for connectivity.
Bears Ears is also home to at least 13 species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including the California condor, Mexican spotted owl, and greenback cutthroat trout. Grand Staircase-Escalante is believed to offer an even greater diversity of species, with more than 200 species of birds and—incredibly—more than 650 species of bees.
For now, let’s celebrate this big win. But it’s clear this won’t be the final battle to protect Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, because we have little doubt that industry groups, the state of Utah, and those hostile to national monuments and public lands will file lawsuits challenging Biden’s proclamations.
We will continue to fight for the people and wildlife sustained by these two critical national monuments. In fact, Guardians and our allies still have a lawsuit pending in federal court challenging Trump’s illegal dissolution of Bears Ears National Monument to ensure that no future president can eliminate or shrink a national monument designated by an earlier president.
So let’s all celebrate this monumental win even as we know we’ll need to prepare to defend these special landscapes from future attacks.