Biden to restore boundaries of national monuments that were reduced by Trump

Utah's Bears Ears is home to thousands of cultural and archeological sites. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - United States President Joe Biden will restore the boundaries of three American national monuments that were downsized by former president Donald Trump, the White House said on Thursday (Oct 7).

The move will protect more than 3.2 million acres in Southern Utah known as the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, as well as the nearly 8,000 sq km North-east Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New England.

Mr Trump had sought to allow ranching, drilling, mining and commercial fishing in the areas, which were established as monuments, or nature reserves, by two of his Democratic predecessors, former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

The move was part of Republican Trump's broader agenda to loosen regulations on industry, which environmentalists have decried as coming at the expense of the environment and wildlife. Mr Biden, a Democrat, said when he took office that he would review Trump's decision to reduce the monuments' boundaries.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American US Cabinet secretary, earlier this year recommended restoring the boundaries.

Under federal law, presidents have the authority to create or alter national monuments unilaterally, which makes their protections uncertain over time.

Mr Trump cut the size of the two Utah monuments by two million acres combined at the request of the state's Republican leadership. On Thursday, Utah Governor Spencer Cox said he was disappointed in Mr Biden's decision to expand the boundaries.

"These decisions clearly demonstrate the administration's unwillingness to collaborate with and listen to those most impacted by their decisions," Mr Cox said, adding that the state would consider its legal options.

Bears Ears is home to thousands of cultural and archeological sites and is considered sacred to Native American tribes in the region, while Grand Staircase-Escalante holds significant geological sites, fossils and historical objects.

Protection of the marine monument means commercial fishing for red crab and American lobster will be phased out by September of 2023, the White House said. Recreational fishing will be allowed.

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