Judge dismisses Utah lawsuit challenging Bears Ears, Grand Staircase monuments
Aug 11, 2023, 3:11 PM | Updated: Aug 15, 2023, 11:59 am
(Mike DeBernardo/Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY — A United States District Judge for the District of Utah has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes which challenged President Joe Biden’s re-establishment of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
In his ruling, Judge David Nuffer dismissed the Utah lawsuit “with prejudice.”
The lawsuit was filed nearly one year ago and argued that “the size of the two national monuments … violates the Antiquities Act of 1906.” Namely, the Utah lawsuit argued that while allowing a U.S. president to create monuments, the Antiquities Act also calls for those monuments to be “confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
The Utah Attorney General’s office released a statement Friday:
“The Attorney General’s Office respectfully but strongly disagrees with the court’s order on the Monuments case today. We will appeal the dismissal in order to stand up against President Biden’s egregious abuse of the Antiquities Act.”
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox also came out against today’s ruling by Judge Nuffer.
“This case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and today’s ruling helps us get there even sooner. The clear language of the law gives the president the authority only to designate monuments that are ‘the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.’ Monument designations over a million acres are clearly outside that authority and end up ignoring local concerns and damaging the very resources we want to protect. We look forward to starting the appeals process immediately and will continue fighting this type of glaring misuse of the Antiquities Act.”
Currently, Bears Ears National Monument, located in Utah’s San Juan County, encompasses 1,351,849 million acres of public land. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument stretches between Utah’s Kane and Garfield counties and represents 1,880,461 acres of public land.
Bears Ears National Monument was established by President Barack Obama in 2016 and was reduced in size by 85% by President Donald Trump in 2017. The monument’s full size was restored by President Joe Biden in 2021.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was established by President Bill Clinton in 1996. It was reduced in size by President Donald Trump in 2017, and restored by President Joe Biden in 2021.