If Friday’s news had been aired on split screen, this association would have been shocking.
One side would have pictured Interior Secretary Deb Haaland introducing President Biden as he prepared to sign declarations to re-establish the full borders of two Utah national monuments. Haaland shed tears as he thanked the president for his decision to “permanently defend the homeland of our ancestors.” This Pueblo woman stood on the lawn of the White House—an indigenous figure with power over a place of power—and detailed the reasons why Beers Ares and Grand Staircase-Escalante deserved restoration.
The second screen would have captured Utah’s elected officials — nearly all white and male — as they announced their displeasure on Twitter and in the Salt Lake City media. His exaggerated language exposed his privilege. He unwittingly revealed his disdain for tribal sovereignty and his increasingly dangerous and delusional dreams of fossil fuel bonuses. Their refusal to address the climate emergency we are facing and their hostility to public lands and the indigenous and science-based conservation of these lands escapes logic.
Back at the signing ceremony in Washington, Biden said, “It may be the easiest thing I’ve done … as president.” He knows that valid arguments against reinstatement don’t really exist. He returned the Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante to their “full glory” while also restoring protection to the incredible biodiversity of the Northeast Valley and Marine National Monument.
Gina McCarthy, the administration’s national climate adviser, and Brenda Mallory, chair of the Environmental Quality Council, extended the president’s message: Preserving these vast reaches of the Colorado Plateau “for all time, for all people,” fostering vital wildlife habitats. Provides maximum ecological resilience in non-damaged landscapes, and permanently protects the sacred tribal homeland.
Members of the Utah congressional delegation are incapable of such foresight. Instead, they issued a joint statement full of bogus claims.
He lamented the lack of “local input”. not true. Holland came to Utah to listen in April 2020. President Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, held a packed hearing in 2016 in Bluff, Utah, inviting all sides to speak. Years of local and tribal research and discussion preceded the announcement of Bears Ears National Monument by the Obama administration in December 2016.
Utah politicians claimed that the restoration of Bears Ears “failed to incorporate the input and participation of local tribes.” Not true at all; Just ask the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, the five local Native nations — the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Ute Indian Tribe, the Hopi Tribe and the Pueblo of the Zuni — which created the original Bears Ears memorial proposal and just last month drew action from Biden. urged to do
Utah senators and congressmen insisted they were prevented from creating a “permanent legislative solution” for these federal lands whose development potential they seek. But over the years, they have consistently failed to negotiate in good faith their proposed bills with absolute allegiance to poison pills for the fossil fuel industry and public lands protection.
His repeated claim that citizens of Utah oppose monuments is another lie. A full 74% of Utah residents support restoration of the monuments, and both the San Juan and Grand County Commissions – which embrace and border Bears Ears – also support restoration.
These officials want us to believe that future presidents will see memorials as nothing more than political football, shrinking borders in one cycle, and restoring them to the next presidency. Ironically, he lobbied Donald Trump to start a “cycle of abuse”, which he now denies.
Since Teddy Roosevelt, 17 presidents from both parties have used the Antiquities Act to establish 158 national monuments on public land. Congress later elevated many of these monuments to national parks. Like many of his norm-breaking treats, Trump’s release of the original Bears Ears and Grand Staircase monuments was odd. There is no other instance in American history of presidents weaponizing the Antiquities Act against themselves. I doubt we’ll see another.
On the fictional incoherent split-screen TV broadcast, you may have seen Mallory, the chairman of the Environmental Quality Council, explain that Trump’s December 2017 removal of monuments—the “greatest abolition of land and water security in American history—sparks” The largest mobilization for conservation in American history.” Millions of Americans spoke up, and their voices were heard – “inspiring a new and powerful vision for conservation in America.”
Short-sighted officials in Utah refused to listen to these voices.
Biden concludes his remarks with opening lines from Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire”, “ Description of Abbey’s first morning as a park ranger at Arches National Park:
“It is the most beautiful place on earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in the heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, a true home, known or unknown, real or visionary.”
The abbey’s “most beautiful place” is the “cunning desert” of arches, bear’s ears and grand staircase. But in the next few lines of “Desert Solitaire”, He gives examples of how the “homing spirit” works for others – “a gray Gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains” or “one on the edge of a blue lake in spruce and fir”. Cabin “Country.” The aggregation of all our commitments to such ideal places—one by one, hundred to hundred, thousand to thousand, native and non-native—makes us a nation.
This is how the president distilled Abhay’s idea. “Friends, that is the United States of America – that is America – a country that we all share together, a country that we must protect together.”
Utah’s elected officials must take the president’s words to heart, abandon useless and unproductive threats to prosecute the federal government, and acknowledge the protections and benefits these two national monuments bring to their state.
Americans have a task to do together – with the entire workforce to create visionary master plans of the 21st century for both protected areas; Empowering the new Bears Ears Commission as Indigenous co-managers of Bears Ears National Monument; and to guarantee adequate research funding for the paleontological, ecological and cultural treasures of the Grand Staircase. lets start.
Utah author and photographer Stephen Trimble serves on the board of Grand Staircase Escalante Partners. His latest book, a memoir, is “The Mike File: A Story of Greef and Hope”.