A group of Utah politicians issued a statement welcoming newly confirmed Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s announcement of an upcoming visit to Utah.
Haaland intends to tour Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, which have been a bone of contention for years.
President Joe Biden has expressed his intention to review the Trump Administration’s reduction of the boundaries of both national monuments, beginning with an executive order calling for a formal review.
“As Utah leaders, we urged the administration to extend the 60-day timeline outlined in President Biden’s Executive Order calling for a review of our national monuments and invited Secretary Haaland to visit Utah to tour the monuments and engage state, local, and tribal leaders,” the statement reads. “We are encouraged that the administration has extended the deadline for review of Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments, and we welcome Secretary Haaland’s decision to travel to Utah.”
The statement was signed by U.S. Senators Mike Lee, Mitt Romney, and Representatives Chris Stewart, John Curtis, Burgess Owens, and Blake Moore in addition to Utah State officials including Gov. Spencer Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, Senate President Stuart Adams, House Speaker Brad Wilson and Attorney General Sean Reyes.
Both Romney and Lee voted against confirming Haaland as secretary of Interior, citing her views on land management and energy resources. The Senate approved Haaland’s nomination on March 15 by a vote of 51-40, a historic first Native American person to serve in a presidential Cabinet. Haaland is a member of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo.
Haaland has not set a date for the trip, which was agreed upon during Senate confirmation hearings after Sen. Lee expressed his objections to further changes to the Utah monuments.
“I understand and I respect your position,” Haaland said to Lee during hearings on Feb. 24. “I want you to know that if I am confirmed, I am ready to sit down and talk with you and the stakeholders in Utah.”
The statement from the Utah delegation expresses optimism that the trip could aid collaboration between the state and federal governments on the long-controversial issue.
“We are also confident that this trip will successfully highlight the need for a permanent legislative solution for determining appropriate boundaries for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, with statutory protections to prevent abuses under the Antiquities Act for the State of Utah,” the statement reads. “We look forward to continuing our work on these issues with Secretary Haaland after her visit.”