SAA Applauds Restoration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments
The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) applauds President Biden's restoration of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments to their full boundaries. This crucial step, which the SAA members, Native American tribes, and countless other organizations and individuals have sought for nearly four years, returns the Monuments to their rightful designations, and gives the maximum amount of protection possible for the irreplaceable cultural, tribal and natural resources on those lands. We appreciate the hard work of Secretary Haaland in listening to Utah residents to advance this discussion, and we value the SAA members and supporters who used the SAA Take Action portal to send more than 9,000 letters, emails, comments, and phone calls in defense of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.
In 2017, the Trump administration conducted a review of large-scale National Monument designations. The outcome of the review was never in doubt, and was designed from the start to justify the White House’s subsequent drastic reduction of the Monuments’ boundaries. The shrinking of the Monuments not only exposed archaeological sites and materials, tribal sacred places, and natural resources to negative impacts from potential energy development, but it also was carried out under an extremely dubious interpretation of the Antiquities Act, thus threatening the integrity of one of the cornerstones of our historic preservation statutes.
Throughout this process, SAA members made their feelings known to their elected representatives and the Trump administration. From our Take Action portal, more than 9,000 letters, emails, comments and phone calls were sent from SAA members and supporters to Congress, the White House, and the Department of Interior. In addition, the SAA joined the American Anthropological Association, the Archaeological Institute of America, and others as amicus supporters of lawsuits seeking to overturn the administration’s dangerous policy. The SAA also joined in extensive lobbying efforts against legislation that would have further weakened the Antiquities Act.