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Biden to restore protections for three national monuments

President Biden is expected to restore protections for the Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monuments on Friday, the Biden administration announced Thursday. The three monuments' protections had been scaled back during the Trump administration. 

"The President's protection of these three national monuments is among a series of steps the Administration has taken to restore protections to some of America's most cherished lands and waters, many of which are sacred to Tribal Nations," the White House said in a memo announcing the decision. 

The statement cited national monument conservation as a key component of improving climate change, public health, the economy and wildlife preservation.

At the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, the boundaries will be reset to where they were at the end of the Obama administration in 2016. It will also retain protections for the 11,200 acres former President Trump added to the park in 2017.

Two Utah National Momments Under Review By Deparetment of Interior
Ancient granaries, part of the House on Fire ruins, are shown here in the South Fork of Mule Canyon in the Bears Ears National Monument on May 12, 2017, outside Blanding, Utah.  George Frey / Getty Images

"Restoring the Monument's boundaries and conditions restores its integrity, upholds efforts to honor the federal trust responsibility to Tribal Nations, and conserves these lands and waters for future generations," the statement said. "With this action, the total protected area of Bears Ears National Monument is 1.36 million acres."

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, also in Utah, will now have 1.87 million acres of protected land — the same amount it did on January 20, 2017. The land has several "world-class geological objects of historic or scientific interest," according to the White House statement, and it is home to dinosaur fossils, Native American and pioneers' objects, campsites, trails and diverse soil and wildlife.

In 2017, Mr. Trump signed two presidential proclamations that diminished the size of Bears Ears by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante by 50%. The Department of the Interior said at the time the move would designate "the smallest area compatible with the care and management of the important objects of historic or scientific interest."

Tyrannosaurs-Social Predators
Photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management shows a "Hollywood" dinosaur specimen that was discovered approximately two miles north of the Rainbows and Unicorns Quarry on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah on February 26, 2019.  Dr. Alan Titus / Bureau of Land Management via AP

In New England, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument will again be fully protected, as established by the Obama administration in 2016. As a result, commercial fishing will not be allowed, and fishing for crab and American lobster will be phased out by 2023.

"The Monument is composed of two units, the Canyons Unit and the Seamounts Unit, each of which showcases unique geological features that anchor vulnerable ecological communities threatened by varied uses, climate change, and related impacts," the White House statement said.

In 2020, Mr. Trump allowed for land development at the national monument.

Photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management shows researchers preparing fossils to be airlifted from the Rainbows and Unicorns Quarry on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the Paria River District paleontology lab in Kanab, Utah, on September 4, 2018.  Dr. Alan Titus / Bureau of Land Management via AP

Blair Guild and Bo Erickson contributed reporting.

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