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SALT LAKE CITY — A group of over 50 representatives of mostly outdoors businesses, including more than a dozen from Utah, co-signed a letter directed to President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland urging them to restore Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah to their original sizes.
The letter, which was dated Wednesday, adds yet another group of voices to the discussion as the Department of Interior decides the future of the two monuments that were reduced in size by President Donald Trump in 2017.
"Our companies and the outdoor industry care deeply about public lands, and we are concerned about the integrity of the Antiquities Act and the protection of our national monuments," it reads, in part. "Both the Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments boast incredible terrain and awe-inspiring landscapes that attract outdoor enthusiasts from around (the) country and the world."
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996; President Barack Obama designated Bears Ears National Monument in 2016. Trump's 2017 proclamation cut the size of Grand Staircase in half and Bears Ears by about 85%.
A review of the decision to shrink the national monuments was one of the first items of business Biden ordered after taking office in January. The deadline has since been extended an additional 60 days.
The decision to review the monuments has also reignited the debate of land management decisions in the state.
Utah's top state and federal leaders sent Biden a letter in February that urged allowing state input into the decision on the monuments. Gov. Spencer Cox also signed HCR12on Monday, which was a concurrent resolution that "encourages the President to work cooperatively with the state's congressional delegation, the state's legislative and executive branches, local communities, and tribes on action regarding national monuments."
Cox said during his monthly PBS Utah news conference last week that the discussions so far have been respectful. But he also called the Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the power to designate national monuments, both "un-American" and "unconstitutional," saying that it allows for "usurping" of legislative power "in droves."
"I do think that there is an opportunity for us to do something in legislation that puts an appropriate size on the boundary, stops it from ping-ponging back and forth every four to eight years, depending on who's elected," Cox said. "We really could do something special that protects the antiquities, the heritage of that place, and removes the just toxic atmosphere and debate around this."
Meanwhile, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said last December that tribal leaders hoped to work with the Biden administration specifically to restore the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument, according to the Navajo-Hopi Observer.
The companies' letter Wednesday argued that protecting the "unique landscapes" of both monuments would respect Native American leadership and help rural communities that have "begun the work to reduce their dependence on resource extraction industries."
"In addition, we ask you to restart the management plans for both monuments to bring landscape-level analyses to those efforts and better incorporate the views of the Tribal community," it concluded.
The letter was signed by owners of 57 companies, including 20 from all over Utah, as well as representatives of prominent companies like outdoor clothing company Patagonia and energy bar giant Clif Bar.
The Utah companies that co-signed the letter are:
- Bike Utah in Lehi
- Bingham Cyclery in Salt Lake City
- Chile Pepper Bike Shop in Moab
- Escape Adventures in Moab
- Grand Properties Management in Moab
- HUKEE LLC in Heber City
- Miguel's Baja Grill in Moab
- Moab Cliffs and Canyons in Moab
- Moab Cyclery in Moab
- PLAN7 Endurance Coaching in Millcreek
- Poison Spider Bicycles in Moab
- SIMBOL Communications in Park City
- Sloan Law Firm, PLLC in Moab
- Red River Adventures in Salt Lake City
- Ride Sales in Salt Lake City
- Rim Mountain Bike Tours in Moab
- TrainingRx LLC/Moab Trail Marathon in Moab
- Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff
- Twin Rocks Trading Post in Bluff
- Western Spirit Cycling in Moab
The letter and Utah's HCR12 were signed a little more than a week after Haaland was confirmed by the Senate as Biden's interior secretary. Utah Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee were among the 40 senators who voted against her nomination.
Haaland last week announced that she planned to view both monuments in April and speak with various leaders in the state before making an official recommendation to Biden.
Cox also signed another bill tied to Bears Ears National Monument that's been less-contested. The governor signed HB341 on Monday, which creates an advisory committee devoted to studying the feasibility of a new visitor's center for the monument.