Letter urges President Biden to keep promise and restore national monuments
Conservation Northwest / Sep 15, 2021 / Protecting Wildlands, Public Lands
50+ organizations with millions of members sent letter urging immediate action from President Biden
On August 31, Conservation Northwest joined nearly 60 national, regional, and local organizations, on behalf of the millions of members and supporters they represent, in sending a letter to President Biden asking him to swiftly restore protections for Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine national monuments.
The organizations urge immediate action from the President in keeping with a promise he made during his campaign and in response to his Executive Order, from over 200 days ago, which started a review of the Trump Administration’s unprecedented and illegal rollbacks of national monument protections.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland recommended restoration in a report to the President in June after visiting Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in April.
The letter highlights existing threats to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante from energy development including oil and gas leasing and mining claims. It specifically highlights recent actions that the Biden administration has taken to resume oil and gas leasing on public lands and their consideration of the establishment of a strategic uranium reserve.
The letter, coordinated by The Wilderness Society, raises objections to these policies as they increase the threat of damage in the monuments and potentially impair President Biden from following through on his promise to restore protections.
Conservation Northwest’s involvement on this issue follows years of leadership on behalf of protecting public lands in Washington state and beyond, including rallies we led during the 2016 seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by armed militants, and organizing in 2017 to protect Washington’s monuments, including Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands national monuments. Learn more on our Protecting Public Lands webpage.
Joint letter to President Biden on national monuments protection
August 31, 2021 – PDF of letter
President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden,
On behalf of the undersigned organizations and the millions of members and supporters we
collectively represent, we urge you to immediately take action to restore national monument
protections to Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts
Marine National Monuments in keeping with your campaign promise. Over 200 days ago, you
signed Executive Order 13990 which directed a review of the Trump Administration’s
unprecedented and illegal rollbacks of national monument protections. By all accounts,
Secretary Haaland completed the review over two months ago and transmitted
recommendations to the White House that include fully restoring protections.
Every day that passes, the threat of irreversible damage to these special places increases. 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.
A number of new mining claims have been staked on land then-President Trump unlawfully cut
from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, including uranium claims
that, if developed, could threaten the health and environment of frontline Indigenous and local
communities. Several of these claims have been staked during your Administration while we’ve
awaited action on restoring protections.
Recent steps by your Administration to examine the creation of a strategic uranium reserve
threaten to amplify these risks to Bears Ears and other sacred sites and public lands. This
reserve would effectively subsidize the U.S. uranium industry at taxpayer expense, putting even
greater pressure to develop new mining claims, potentially re-start operations at the Daneros
uranium mine on the western border of the original monument, and increase production at the
White Mesa Mill. Encouraging the use of only newly-mined uranium for the strategic uranium
reserve raises the prospect of ore from the Daneros Mine and other new claims being
transported through Bears Ears National Monument to the White Mesa Mill. The mill sits on
private land just one mile east of the original boundaries of Bears Ears and is just 2.5 miles from
the nearest home in the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal community of White Mesa. Additional mining
and processing pose an increased radioactive threat to water, air, land and to nearby
communities, both Native and non-Native alike.
Not only is the creation of a strategic uranium reserve a bad idea that is out of step with your
Administration’s commitment to environmental justice, it could also directly threaten the ability
for you and your Administration to follow through on your commitment to Tribes and the public
to restore protections to Bears Ears and other national monuments.
Oil & Gas Development
Since January, oil and gas companies have nominated tens of thousands of acres of parcels for
new oil and gas leasing in the Bears Ears region, including over 40,000 acres within the original
boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.
The Department of the Interior’s August 16th announcement that it will resume oil and gas
leasing on public lands while awaiting appeal of ongoing litigation, makes the threat of oil and
gas leasing and development in Bears Ears even more real. 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 decisions to consider subsidizing toxic uranium mining and production and resume oil and
gas leasing on public lands, particularly absent needed reforms, are both problematic on their
own and underscore the need to immediately follow through on your promise to restore
protections to these national monuments. Your decision to restore and expand the monuments
will result in a national and international groundswell of support for you and your administration.
National monuments are popular, and recent polling indicates that 77 percent of Westerners
and 74 percent of Utahns support the restoration of protections for Bears Ears and Grand
Staircase-Escalante. We urge you Mr. President, and your Administration, to both reconsider
and rectify these policy decisions writ large and to act immediately to restore protection to Bears
Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National