Bennet Fought to Protect Bears Ears for Years
Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the following statement after the Biden Administration announced they will restore protections for Bears Ears National Monument:
“Over the last four years, tribal communities, Coloradans and the American people have made clear: Bears Ears is a wild and sacred place that should be protected. With this decision, President Biden has listened to and respected the tribes from the Four Corners Region, including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. By restoring Bears Ears National Monument, President Biden has helped our nation reaffirm our commitment to our tribes, and ensure the area is managed in a balanced way to not only preserve our cultural heritage, but also strengthen our economy. I look forward to the administration moving forward on a management and funding plan, developed in partnership with our tribes, that will protect this sacred landscape for generations.”
Bennet has fought for protecting public land throughout his time in the Senate, including supporting the establishment of Bears Ears National Monument by President Obama in 2016. In 2016, Bennet applauded the national monument proclamation for Bears Ears, which is home to ancestral lands and cultural sites that are sacred to the region, including to the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Tribes of Colorado, both of whom strongly supported this designation.
Then, amid reports that the Trump Administration was considering abolishing or significantly reducing the size of Bears Ears in 2017, Bennet supported protections for the monument and called on the administration to meet with Tribal leadership before any decisions were made. In April 2017, he sent a letter with eight other Western Democratic senators to President Trump urging him to uphold existing protections for all 157 national monuments under review, including Bears Ears. He then spoke on the Senate floor about the importance of our national monuments and the integrity of the Antiquities Act. In May 2017, Bennet sent a letter with then-Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to then-U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke urging him to refrain from modifying any national monument designations in Colorado and warning him against taking unprecedented steps to diminish the size of Bears Ears. In December 2017, Bennet denounced President Trump’s decision to shrink Bears Ears.
In January 2018, Bennet and other senators introduced the America's Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2018 in response to the Trump Administration's unprecedented attacks on national monuments. The legislation reinforces that only Congress has the authority to modify a national monument designation. In April 2018, Bennet called on Zinke to halt the development of management plans for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments until legal challenges related to former President Trump’s illegal attempt to shrink these monuments have been resolved.
In July 2021, Bennet wrote to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland urging her to meet with the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe to hear directly about Tribal members’ priorities and to support their request to restore Bears Ears as a National Monument.