Oct 8, 2021
Joe Biden Restored Protections for 3 National Monuments: Speech Transcript
President Joe Biden restored protections for 3 national monuments on October 8, reversing cuts from the Trump administration. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here.
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Gina McCarthy: (00:00)
We’re here for a celebration. We’re here to celebrate the latest step that President Biden is taking to protect, to conserve, and to restore the lands and the waters that all of us cherish. Today President Biden is restoring protections for three magnificent national monuments, and this announcement follows on consultations with a wide variety of stakeholders. It fulfills a key promise to the American people, restoring protections for these national monuments as part of this administration’s broader commitments to protect our natural and cultural resources, to honor tribal sovereignty, and to advance environmental justice.
Gina McCarthy: (00:47)
Present Biden’s conservation agenda is also a critical part of how we’re tackling the climate crisis. By protecting our ecosystems, we strengthen the power of our soils, our grasses, and our trees to trap carbon pollution, and healthy natural systems build up our resilience against the climate impacts that we know we are already facing. Tapping into these natural climate solutions will protect public health. They will protect us against climate impacts. They will promote biodiversity, and yes, they will grow our economy. That’s worth a clap.
Gina McCarthy: (01:33)
That’s why President Biden threw his Build Back agenda has also proposed creating … Are you ready for it? A new Civilian Climate Corps, which will partner with our unions in putting to work a new generation that looks like America, receiving good benefits and good pay to restore the health of our public lands, our coasts, our waters, and our forests, and to advance environmental justice and help communities to better prepare for the impacts of a changing climate.
Gina McCarthy: (02:07)
Across our administration, we’re taking a whole of government approach to conservation and to climate with the agencies that steward so many of our lands and waters, like the Department of the Interior and Agriculture and Commerce. We’re all working together to advance wind and solar, to promote climate-smart agriculture and forestry and create good paying union jobs all along the way and implementing these innovative climate solutions.
Gina McCarthy: (02:37)
So as we celebrate today’s restoration of these three national monuments, we’re also committed to building back better as we tackle our climate crisis. With that, I am so honored to introduce my good friend Brenda Mallory, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who is leading on our conservation and environmental justice efforts. Brenda.
Brenda Mallory: (03:07)
Thank you, Gina. It is so great to see all of you in person. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be in person on this day and this event. I want to welcome you to the White House, and I also want to thank you, each and every one of you, from tribal leaders to business leaders to conservation leaders to hunters, anglers, climbers, scientists, educators, and millions and millions of American people. Thank you for speaking up. Thank you for standing up and for fighting to keep a simple but sacred promise that in America when we protect a place as a national monument, it is to be protected for all time, for all people.
Brenda Mallory: (04:00)
Let us reflect on the meaning of this moment. The single largest elimination of protections of lands and waters in US history was met by the single largest mobilization for conservation in US history. Millions and millions of Americans rallied to help tribes defend Bears Ears, to restore Grand Staircase-Escalante, and to safeguard the Atlantic Ocean’s first marine national monument.
Brenda Mallory: (04:32)
This fight has galvanized a new and powerful vision for conservation in America, a vision in which we act with urgency and ambition to conserve and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife we love and that are disappearing so quickly, a vision in which the stewardship traditions and conservation priorities of tribal nations are celebrated and supported in both law and policy, a vision in which every child in America, no matter where they live, has a chance to experience nature’s wonders, and a vision in which we harness the power of our forests and farms and ocean and coast to keep our climate livable and communities thriving. This is the vision that President Biden with your help is pursuing, and let me tell you, there is no one better to stand beside as we drive this work forward than our extraordinary Secretary of the Interior. Ladies and gentlemen, my friend and partner in so many things, Secretary Deb Haaland.
President Joe Biden: (05:54)
Deb Haaland: (05:54)
Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Before I start, I just have to say that I have the best team at DOI, and I’m so grateful for all of you. So thank you. Thank you, and thank you, Brenda. Thank you for your introduction.
Deb Haaland: (06:18)
We are here today on the ancestral homelands of the Anacostia and Piscataway people, bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice. Thank you, Mr. President, for the profound action you are taking today to permanently protect the homelands of our ancestors. Our songs, our languages, and our cultures are strong, and many people from many Indian tribes have sung and spoken in unison to protect this sacred place.
Deb Haaland: (06:53)
Bears Ears is a living landscape. When I’ve been there, I felt the warmth and joy of ancestors who’ve cared for this special place since time immemorial. It’s a place where you can stand in the doorway of a home where a family who lived thousands of years ago left behind a legacy of love and conservation for a place that sustained them for countless generations. Stories of existence, celebration, survival, and reverence are etched into the sandstone canyon walls. Sacred sites are dotted across the desert mesas. Cultural heritage in the form of ancient pots, arrowheads, clothing, seeds, and evidence of lives well lived are as inseparable from Bears Ears as the air we breathe at this moment.
Deb Haaland: (07:51)
Today children learn and sustain from their parents and elders the songs, traditions, and ceremonies that have been passed down from generation to generation at Bears Ears. This is a place that must be protected in perpetuity for every American and every child of the world.
Deb Haaland: (08:21)
Today’s announcement, it’s not just about national monuments. It’s about this administration centering the voices of Indigenous people and affirming the shared stewardship of this landscape with tribal nations. The president’s actions today writes a new chapter that embraces Indigenous knowledge, ensures tribal leadership has a seat at the table, and demonstrates that by working together, we can build a brighter future for all of us. We have much more good work ahead. Together, we will tell a more complete story of America. Together, we will conserve and protect our lands and ocean for people, for wildlife, for the climate. Together, we will strengthen our economy with healthy, resilient, natural systems.
Deb Haaland: (09:18)
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for strengthening the nation to nation relationship. Thank you on behalf of all Americans who love and value our cultural heritage. Thank you on behalf of the local communities whose economies are continually benefiting from healthy ecosystems on our public lands, national monuments, and parks. I am so grateful and very proud to serve on your team, and now it’s my distinct honor to introduce you, ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America.
President Joe Biden: (09:58)
Deb Haaland: (09:58)
President Joe Biden: (10:03)
Deb Haaland: (10:04)
President Joe Biden: (10:11)
Good afternoon. Please, all be seated, please. Madam Secretary, Deb, you’ve done an incredible job in a short amount of time. I told you when I asked you to be Secretary of Interior that I understood I was politically raised by [inaudible 00:10:32] Indian nations, Indian nations. I want to thank all the leaders that are here today for your support, your help getting this done. It’s really, really important. I want to thank Brenda, the Council of Environmental Quality, and Gina McCarthy. If you need any translation, talk to me after. Gina, you’re the best. You’re the best. I want you to know although he didn’t speak today, we want to thank my buddy Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, for being here today, because he’s about preservation.
President Joe Biden: (11:17)
Maria, Senator Cantwell, thank you for your really hard, consistent, unrelenting work on these issues. I also want to thank Michael Bennett the same way. He’s been in this and ever from the moment he got elected has been pushing hard. Rubin, I want to thank you, Congressman Gallego, for the work you’ve done and continue to do. I really mean it.
President Joe Biden: (11:43)
This may be the easiest thing I’ve ever done so far as President. I mean it. I mean it. I’ve got to tell you a quick story. When I was running for office, and I’m embarrassed I can’t remember exactly which state I was in, but a gentleman and I think it was his wife and a little girl said … The little girl said, “Can I talk to you?” She had this … I couldn’t understand what she had in her hand. It looked like a teddy bear. She said, “Can I talk to you, Mr.?” She wasn’t sure what to call me, because I wasn’t elected yet. “Mr. President or Mr. Vice President.” I said, “Sure. What’s the matter, honey?”
President Joe Biden: (12:23)
She said, “I want to give you something. I want to give you some bear’s ears.” I looked at her, and she gave me this little set of bear’s ears. She said, “You’ve got to promise me. You’ve got to promise me you’ll protect the bear’s ears.” I’m thinking, “What the heck?” I mean, at the time I knew bears, but I just didn’t quite get it. Her dad said, “A national park.” I said, “Oh, yeah.” She went and looked. She said, “You promise? You promise?” I promised, and it’s the easiest promise that I’ve made in a long time.
President Joe Biden: (13:01)
I’m grateful to the tribal nation leaders and both those who are here with us today and those are unable to join us. Today I’m proud to announce the protection and expansion of three of the most treasured national monuments, our most treasured based on powers granted to the president under the Antiquities Act first used more than a century ago by Teddy Roosevelt.
President Joe Biden: (13:24)
First, Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. This is the first national monument in the country to be established at the request of federally recognized tribes and a place of healing, as was spoken by the secretary, a place of reverence, a sacred homeland to hundreds of generations of Native peoples. The last administration reduced the size by 85%, leaving vulnerable more than one million acres of cherished landscape. Today I will shortly be signing a proclamation to fully restore the boundaries of Bears Ears.
President Joe Biden: (14:00)
Second, I’m restoring Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a place of unique and extraordinary geology as well as biodiversity established as a national monument 25 years ago this month. Over the last quarter century, this land has produced a significant scientific discoveries per acre, more than any other national monument, everything from fossils to ancient Indigenous artifacts. Once again, the last administration cut the size of the monument nearly in half, stripping away more than 800,000 protected acres. Today I’m signing a proclamation to restore it to its full glory.
President Joe Biden: (14:45)
Third, off the coast of New England, I’m restoring protection of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, waters teaming with life with underwater canyons as deep as parts of the Grand Canyon and underwater mountains as tall as the Appalachians. There’s nothing like it in the world, because its unique biodiversity, marine scientists believe that this is a key to understanding life under the sea. President Obama established it as a national monument five years ago, recognizing its irreplaceable value. Again, my predecessor chipped away at its protections. The proclamation I’ll be signing today is going to restore protections established by President Obama when this monument was first created. Excuse me.
President Joe Biden: (15:37)
The protection of public lands must become, must not become, I should say, a pendulum that swings back and forth depending on who’s in public office. It’s not a partisan issue, and I want to thank the members of Congress for coming together to support this important conservation work. By the way, I might add as a matter of courtesy, I spoke with both the senators from Utah. They didn’t agree with what I was doing, but they were gracious and polite about it, and I appreciate that as well.
President Joe Biden: (16:09)
Truth is, national monuments and parks are part of our identity as a people. They are more than natural wonders. They’re the birthright we pass from generation to generation, a birthright of every American. Preserving them is a fulfillment of a promise to our children and all those who will come to leave this world a little better than we found it. But today our children are three times more likely to see climate disasters uproot and unsettle their lives than their grandparents generation. We have to come together and understand why this work is so critical.
President Joe Biden: (16:46)
When we’re protecting care for a forest, we’re not just preserving the majesty of nature. We’re safeguarding water sources and lessening the impact of fires. Excuse me, and the impact of fires. We’re protecting wetlands. We’re not only saving birds and fish and the livelihoods of people that depend on them. We’re also shoring up the natural defenses to absorb the fury of hurricanes and super storms. Nearly one in three Americans live in a community that has been struck by weather disasters just in the last few months, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, heat waves. Both the Build Back Better plan and my bipartisan infrastructure are going to make critical investments, significantly increasing the resilience to these devastating effects on the climate crisis.
President Joe Biden: (17:34)
It includes creation of a Civilian Climate Corps, similar to President Franklin Roosevelt’s Conservation Corps. It’s going to put diverse groups of Americans to work doing everything from restoring wetlands to protecting clean water to making forests more resilient against wildfires. My plan also puts Americans on a course to achieve 50 to 52% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to reach net zero emissions no later than 2050. Achieving these ambitious goals is going to require that nature itself play a role.
President Joe Biden: (18:14)
Scientists estimate that the protection and restoration of natural lands and waters can provide nearly 40% of the solutions to climate change. That’s why I’m signing these proclamations today as an additional reason. It’s also why I’m restoring protections for the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, which I’ve had the great honor to visit. As a matter of fact, when I was meeting with … Back in the days when the Senator from Alaska, I was with him after the oil spill on the North Slope, and we stopped in the Tongass Forest. He sat me at a table in this magnificent restaurant in the middle of the Tongass Forest, which has tree trunks as big as those trees holding up the whole building. It’s magnificent.
President Joe Biden: (19:03)
He sat me with what I kidding call Hoss Cartwright and his family, four big guys, really big, big guys. They had a lumber company that they were foresting the area, and they wanted me to support paying for roads into the national forest so they could forest. We started the conversation. To make a long story short, when I made it clear I wasn’t going to do that, a father turned to his son, who looked like that program, Hoss Cartwright, big fella. He said, “I’ll bet” … I won’t use the exact language. He turned to me. I’m across the table, and it’s just got he and three of his sons. He said, “I’ll bet this so-and-so,” referring to me, expletive deleted, “doesn’t realize he’s closer to Lexington, Kentucky today than he was when he just flew off the North Slope.” It made the point to me. Alaska’s pretty big. There’s an awful lot we need to protect.
President Joe Biden: (20:08)
But that’s why I’m working to protect Bristol Bay from mining operations that would threaten one of the world’s largest salmon runs. That’s why I’m refusing to sell off the Arctic National Wildlife reserve to oil and gas. These protections provide a bridge to our past, but they also build a bridge to a safer, more sustainable future, one where we strengthen our economy and pass on a healthy planet to our children and our grandchildren.
President Joe Biden: (20:38)
Let me close with this. Edward Abbey, a writer who once worked as a ranger at the Arches National Park in Utah, wrote, and I quote, “This is the most beautiful place on Earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.” Folks, that’s the United States of America. That’s America, a country we all share together, a country that we must protect together. This is just one more step in doing what other presidents have done, starting with Teddy Roosevelt. I’m now going to sign these proclamations, and thank you all. Thank you all for your support. Thank you. Come on.
President Joe Biden: (21:26)
All right. First one I’m signing is Grand Staircase.
President Joe Biden: (22:11)
All right. The second one I’m signing is Bears Ears.
President Joe Biden: (22:19)
Wish I could remember that little girl’s name. I hope she’s watching.
Thank you for signing this, President.
President Joe Biden: (22:27)
Oh, it’s important to me. You guys know it better than anybody. All right. Here we go. I’m going to get you all a pen.
President Joe Biden: (22:48)
The third one I’m signing is the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. [inaudible 00:22:53]. Go on. Somebody grab one that doesn’t have one.
Thank you, Mr. President.
President Joe Biden: (23:27)
Next one. Next one. Next one.
I’m going to do the same back home, Mr. President.
President Joe Biden: (23:32)
Thank you. Next one.
I’m going to start adding my middle names.
President Joe Biden: (23:41)
I’m going to keep going here. How many more? [inaudible 00:23:52]?
Did you get one, Bonnie?
Put a PS there.
President Joe Biden: (24:05)
[inaudible 00:24:05]. Okay. Two more. Barack used to be able to do this. It’d say Barack Obama. He didn’t always have the two pens.
There you go.
President Joe Biden: (24:23)
One more. If I don’t have enough pens …
Do a heart sign.
President Joe Biden: (24:32)
Everybody get one?
President Joe Biden: (24:33)
All right. Thank you. Thank you all very much.