Durbin Meets With Utah Wilderness Coalition About Trump's Plans To Shrink Bears Ears & Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments

WASHINGTON—Following a recent New York Times article that highlighted internal U.S. Department of Interior documents showing that efforts to reduce the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah were motivated by a desire to increase oil and natural gas development in the region and to allow additional coal and mineral mines, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with members of the Utah Wilderness Coalition to express his continued support for maintaining the monuments’ original sizes.

On December 4, 2017, President Trump announced this his Administration planned to shrink Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, and cut Grand Staircase-Escalante to about half its current size.  In response, five Indian tribes sued over President Trump’s move in federal court.  They argue that although Congress delegated power to the president under the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments, it did not give the power to reduce them.

“President Trump’s decision to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments puts the future of these resources in jeopardy and threatens our culture, history, and heritage.  And news reports that drilling and mining were at the forefront of his decision making – as opposed to protection of the natural, historic landscapes – constitutes as a breach of his responsibility both to those who founded this nation and those who will inherit it.  I will continue fighting alongside the Utah Wilderness Coalition to preserve our country’s most important national monuments,” said Durbin. 

Photos of today’s meeting are available here.

In February, Durbin led 12 Democratic senators in pressing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to postpone the development of management plans for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument areas in Utah until legal challenges regarding the President’s authority to reduce the size of the monuments have been resolved.  The Senators also requested that the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument management plan remain in effect for all lands within the original monument boundary until resolution of the legal challenges.  

In January 30, Durbin and 18 Democratic senators introduced the America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2018, legislation that reinforces Congress’ intent in the Antiquities Act of 1906: only Congress has the authority to modify a national monument designation.

In October 2017, Durbin led 13 of his Senate colleagues in a letter to President Trump urging him to maintain the original boundaries and management plans for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante.  In April 2017, Durbin introduced legislation – America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act – to protect 9.2 million acres of public land in Utah that is rich in archaeological resources and home to numerous rare plant and animal species.