The new national monument – formally designated as the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument – federally protects just under 1 million acres of land considered sacred by local Native American tribes. The area will be protected from all new uranium mining, extending a 20-year prohibition established in 2012 under President Barack Obama.
Utah leaders called the designation a misuse and abuse of the Antiquities Act, saying the new national monument would be detrimental to southern Utahns.
“Not only will this decision negatively impact our local grazers, miners and other constituents whose livelihoods are deeply intertwined with this region, but it will tie up one of our few domestic sources of uranium, a critical component in carbon-free nuclear energy production,” criticized Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
“Although the monument would be entirely in Arizona, it will be detrimental to ranchers in southern Utah,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) “Ranchers in Washington and Kane Counties, who graze their cattle on the public lands on the Arizona Strip, will be faced with burdensome restrictions or be prevented from using the land altogether.”
Romney continued by saying Biden has “ignored concerns of those who live closest to the land.”
According to the National Park Service, the Antiquities Act was signed into law in 1906. It’s meant to federally protect cultural and natural resources of “historic or scientific interests.”
Both Utah senators said Biden’s decision increases alliance and dependence on foreign powers such as Russia and China for energy needs.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox voiced his frustration with Biden’s announcement, saying massive monuments such as this are “a mistake.”
“These designations increase visitation without providing any additional resources for law enforcement and infrastructure to protect sensitive areas,” said Cox. “They also needlessly restrict access to the critical minerals that are key to cell phones, satellites, U.S. defense systems and so many other American industries.”
Cox said he believes land designations should only be done through Congress. Lee said Biden needs to reconsider his approach.
“It’s time for President Biden to reflect, revisit his tactics, and release the chokehold currently suffocating local livelihoods and our domestic energy production, especially if he wants to decrease our dependence on sources from adversarial nations,” said Lee.
Meanwhile, the Center for Western Priorities, a nonpartisan conservation and advocacy organization, celebrated the move despite criticism from Utah leaders.
Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala said the designation safeguarded critical drinking water supplies for Tribal communities as well as the entire Colorado River Basin while protecting natural, recreational, and scientific resources.
“Today’s designation moves the country closer to the Biden administration’s goal of protecting 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030,” said Rokala. “I’m grateful for President Biden for his strong commitment to conservation and urge him to continue using his power under the Antiquities Act to protect imperiled ecosystems and other important natural areas.”