Interior Secretary visits Bears Ears, Grand Staircase Escalante amid controversy

Local Politics

UTAH (ABC4) – Utah’s public lands are once again in the national spotlight.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland made a stop in the Beehive State on Thursday, getting a firsthand look at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante.

Her visit comes in the months after Utah’s congressional delegation called on President Joe Biden to find a permanent legislative solution regarding the boundaries of these monuments.

Haaland is reviewing the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante, meeting face to face with stakeholders.

In question is an executive order from President Trump back in 2017, which drastically reduced the size of both national monuments. President Bill Clinton originally designated about 1.8 milion acres for Grand Staircase, then President Obama designated about 1.3 million acres for Bears Ears.

President Trump then shrunk Grand Staircase about half of its originally designated size and Bears Ears to about 200,000 acres.

Many locals fought back, saying that Trump’s decision was a land grab that hindered local economic opportunities. Others argued that it has left sacred lands unprotected.

Now, the Biden Administration is considering its next move.

“It’s important the President get this right,” Secretary Deb Haaland said.

“Yesterday and today I spent time on the land. I have looked at pictographs, vistas that take your breath away, I have spoken with other folks this is an extremely special place. So, it’s pretty clear that people everywhere have a feeling about this area,” Haaland added

Gov. Cox and members of Utah’s congressional delegation believe that a better way is to come up with a permanent solution; through legislation.

“More than anything, I think the takeaway from our meetings over the past 24 hours is we want to try to take the divisiveness out of this as much as we possibly can. That’s probably impossible, but there are better ways to do this.”

Utah Senator Mitt Romney expressed his gratitude for Sec. Haaland for making the trip to the monuments.

“I hope we take advantage of this opportunity, and I certainly hope the President gives the attention to this issue I think it deserves. I very much appreciate the secretary being here and providing the input he will need for this decision,” Sen. Romney said.

The Secretary will take what she has has learned back to Washington to discuss it with the President. There is no set timetable on when the President will release his decision.

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Glen Mills

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 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...