SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed from the state of Utah challenging President Joe Biden’s expansion of two national monuments: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
In 2017, under President Trump, Bears Ears National Monument on lands considered sacred to Native Americans was downsized by 85%, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was cut by nearly half.
The current administration is looking to restore them to their previous size.
The Utah Attorney General filed a lawsuit in 2022 fighting the decision by President Biden.
On Friday, Aug. 11, U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer dismissed the case, saying Biden could issue proclamations creating monuments “as he sees fit,” and that those actions are not reviewable by the court.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes responded to the case’s dismissal Friday, saying, “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 expressed his disappointment with the federal judge’s decision, claiming the expansion is not within the president’s authority, and that the move ignores local concerns. Gov. Cox issued the following statement:
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.
Bears Ears, which was designated a National Monument under President Obama, is unique because land management decisions are made by a commission governed by both federal agency officials and representatives from five tribal nations, according to the Associated Press.
The part of Utah where Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante are located has reportedly been the subject of heated land management debates since President Bill Clinton designated Grand Staircase a national monument in 1996.
Biden has argued the land is sacred to these native peoples.