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‘Our voices were removed’: Some hopeful for change amid Haaland visit to Utah national monuments

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland will recap her time spent visiting Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments.

Haaland’s research could reverse former President Donald Trump’s decision to shrink the land in both those parks.

Davina Smith, a board member for Grand Staircase National Partners, says Trump’s decision freed up land rich in oil and natural gas reserves while removing those in the indigenous community for the conversation.

“Our voices were removed, our tribal leaders were not able to sit down with former Secretary Zinkie,” Smith says. “There were only a select few who were in support of reducing the monument.”

The two monuments being looked at are in Congressman John Curtis’s district.

“I support efforts to find the solutions for these public lands that are still viable, but let’s do it through consensus building,” Rep. Curtis says in a previously taped interview.

That is why Secretary Haaland, who is the first Native American woman to hold this position, came to Utah. She plans to open up the conversation with the five tribes in the area. Her research could reverse Trump’s decision and reopen public land.

“The economic impact of a monument designation and how it threatens lively hood and people worrying about how they will provide for their families,” Rep. Curtis says.

But Smith says there could be other options.

“We really need to look at another form of economic development that is also safe for our environment,” Smith says.  

Smith hopes a decision will protect the land in both monuments while allowing tribes to have a seat at the table.

Haaland will address the media Thursday afternoon.

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