President Biden is reversing former President Donald Trump's decision to reduce the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.
Under Trump, Bears Ears — which former President Barack Obama made a national monument in 2016, at the request of Indigenous peoples — was cut by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante was cut by almost 50 percent. This opened up the land for possible coal mining and oil and gas drilling where it was previously prohibited, The Guardian reports.
Environmental activists, Indigenous leaders, and Democratic lawmakers applauded Biden. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said the move showed the administration is committed to "conserving our public lands and respecting the voices of Indigenous peoples. It's time to put Trump's cynical actions in the rearview mirror."
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) felt differently, saying he was saddened by the decision and wanted to work with Biden on legislative action. "The president's decision to enlarge the monuments again is a tragic missed opportunity," Cox said in a statement. "It fails to provide certainty as well as the funding for law enforcement, research, and other protections which the monuments need and which only congressional action can offer."
In April, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited the Utah monuments, and recommended they return to their original size. It's not yet clear if Biden will do a full restoration; he's expected to make the official announcement soon.