(EnviroNews Utah) — Blanding, Utah — In a historic event captured in 12K resolution by local EnviroNews Utah, newly appointed Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland addressed member of the press alongside tribal leaders, government officials and key stakeholders at the Bears Ears National Monument on April 8, 2021. Alongside the Secretary were Governor Spencer Cox (R-UT), Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), Congressmen John Curtis (R-UT) Congressman Blake Moore (R-UT), and San Juan County Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy. Also in attendance were several tribal leaders including Clark Tenakhongva (Hopi), Carleton Bowekaty, (Zuni) and Manuel Heart (Ute Mountain Ute); they spoke at press conference as well.
The areas surrounding the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments have been sacred to Native people for time immemorial; they have also been enjoyed by the public for recreation and sightseeing. But these legendary places have also been the source of a contentious legal and political fight spanning a decade — because ranchers and mining prospectors want to use the land too.
Former President Barack Obama designated the two areas as national monuments in his waning days, only to see the two newly-named national monuments stripped back by 85 percent by his predecessor Donald Trump. Undoing a president’s use of the Antiquities Act by reducing the monument was, in and of itself, an unprecedented move — and cases are still linger in court on whether Trump’s action was legit.
Five local tribes — Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, Ute and Southern Ute — have unified behind the fight to restore (or even expand) the monuments to their original sizes, in a coalition Tenakhongva said was the only one of its kind “in the history of Native America.” Tenakhongva is Vice Chairman of the Hopi Tribe and Co-Chair of the Bears Ears Coalition.
Haaland said the primary point of her visit was to listen, and to take the perspectives of all stakeholders back to the White House, saying Biden has to “get this right.” “I’m here to listen; I’m here to learn.”
The transcript to Secretary Haaland’s speech in its entirety can be read just below:
Hello everyone. Thank you all so much for being here on this beautiful day, in this beautiful state. And I’m so happy to be back here in Utah, I’ve been here several times before and it’s just as beautiful as it has [been] every time I have been here. So, I appreciate the opportunity to join the Governor and the Utah delegation. The Governor’s been an incredible host and I’m so grateful for his company on the trails today and [for] all the conversations we’ve had about this land. The tribal leaders also who have joined us; I am extremely grateful for the wisdom of them as well — generous in sharing their time and wisdom I will say.
The purpose of my visit this time around is to really listen — to listen to the Governor, to listen to the Utah delegation, to listen to the tribal leaders, [to] listen to the local folks — the stakeholders who care deeply about this land, who’ve lived here all their lives. We’re going to make sure that we make the rounds and listen to as many people as possible. I know that the Biden Administration is considering the boundaries and management conditions of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and my message is really very simple: I’m here to listen; I’m here to learn.
I know that decisions about public lands are incredibly impactful to the people who live nearby. But not just to us — not just to the folks who are here today — but people for generations to come. It’s our obligation to make sure that we protect lands for future generations so they can have the same experiences that the Governor and I have experienced today. So, it’s important that the President gets this right.
Yesterday and today I spent time on the land. I looked at pictographs [and] vistas that take your breath away. I have spoken with other folks who have said: this is an extremely special place. So, it’s pretty clear everywhere have a feeling about this area and know that the cultural heritage of this area belongs to all Americans and it’s so important that we think of that for the future.
As I said, I’m meeting with as many people as possible: tribal leaders, the Governor, senators, Congress members. Hearing from local folks: county commissioners later on today, local ranchers and the mining industry — we’re also meeting with folks from there, the outdoor recreation folks, small business owners, conservation organizations, and of course the scientists — the folks who study that land and give us the data that is important in making decision.
I will take back what I learn to President Biden and he should have the benefit of all the perspectives that I’m hearing from today. Last, I really want to thank the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service career-staff — the folks who are here every single day dedicating their careers to protecting our public lands, we’re so grateful to the career paths that they have chosen, and want you to know that as Secretary of the Interior I will work very hard to make sure I support their work in everything we do.
And I’m so proud right now to turn this over to the esteemed governor of Utah, Governor Cox.