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Interior Secretary Announces Landmark Protections for National Monuments


On May 26, 2024, United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a sweeping expansion of protections for national monuments across the country. The move is a direct response to the Trump administration's efforts to shrink or eliminate many of these designated lands.

Background of National Monuments

National monuments are federally protected areas established by presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act of 1906. They preserve significant historical, cultural, or natural resources. Over 150 national monuments exist in the United States, ranging from the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Trump-Era Rollbacks

During his presidency, Donald Trump signed executive orders reducing the size of several national monuments, including Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. These actions sparked outrage from conservationists and Native American tribes, who argued that the protected lands were integral to their heritage and identity.

Biden Administration's Reversal

Upon taking office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to review and restore the boundaries of national monuments that had been reduced by the Trump administration. Haaland's announcement on May 26 represents the culmination of this review process.

Landmark Protections

The Secretary of the Interior made major expansions to several national monuments, including:

  • Bears Ears National Monument (Utah): Restored to its original size of 1.36 million acres, protecting sacred sites and cultural resources of the Navajo, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian, and Zuni tribes.
  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Utah): Expanded by approximately 350,000 acres, encompassing a vast and diverse landscape with canyons, mesas, and paleontological treasures.
  • Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument (Atlantic Ocean): Enlarged by 1,237 square miles, creating one of the largest marine protected areas in the country, safeguarding deep-sea ecosystems and marine life.
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (New Mexico): Expanded by 500,000 acres, protecting desert landscapes, sacred sites of Native American tribes, and crucial wildlife corridors.

Benefits of Monument Protections

Enlarging national monuments provides numerous environmental, cultural, and economic benefits:

  • Preserves unique and valuable landscapes for future generations.
  • Safeguards cultural and historical resources of indigenous communities.
  • Promotes tourism and recreation opportunities, boosting local economies.
  • Protects biodiversity and wildlife habitats.
  • Mitigates climate change by sequestering carbon in intact ecosystems.

Reactions to the Announcement

Secretary Haaland's announcement was met with widespread praise from conservation groups, Native American tribes, and members of Congress. They hailed the move as a historic step towards environmental stewardship and the protection of sacred and irreplaceable lands.

However, some industry groups expressed concerns about potential impacts on resource development and grazing. The Interior Department stated that the new protections would balance the need for conservation with responsible resource use.


The Interior Secretary's significant expansion of national monuments represents a major victory for conservation and cultural preservation. The protected areas will safeguard unique ecosystems, cultural resources, and wildlife habitats for generations to come. The move also highlights the Biden administration's commitment to undoing the environmental rollbacks of the Trump era and promoting a brighter future for the country's natural heritage.

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