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State of Utah sues President Biden for ‘unlawful’ designation of National Monuments

SALT LAKE CITY – On Wednesday, the United States District Court of Utah, Garfield County, Kane County, and the state of Utah filed a lawsuit against President Biden and members of the Bureau of Land Management for the wrongful enlargement of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Utah’s elected leaders, including Governor Spencer Cox, Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson, State Auditor John Dougall, Treasurer Marlo Oaks, and Senate President J. Stuart Adams, House Speaker Brad Wilson, U.S. Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, and Congressmen Chris Stewart, John Curtis, Burgess Owens, and Blake Moore all joined the Attorney General today and released this statement:

“These public lands and sacred sites are a stewardship that none of us take lightly. The archeological, paleontological, religious, recreational, and geologic values need to be harmonized and protected. Rather than guarding those resources, President Biden’s unlawful designations place them all at greater risk,” Utah leaders wrote.

Today’s lawsuit argues that the size of the two national monuments, covering vast landscapes of a combined 3.2 million acres throughout southern Utah, violates the Antiquities Act of 1906, which limits U.S. presidents to create monuments “confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

“The vast size of the expanded Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments draws unmanageable visitation levels to these lands without providing any of the tools necessary to adequately conserve and protect these resources.” Utah’s elected leaders said today in a press release.

Bears Ears National Monument
Indigenous dwellings in Bears Ears National Monument. Photo: Bureau of Land Management

President Biden enlarged the national monuments in 2021 and claimed they were “objects of historic and scientific interest” in a speech last October. Both National Monuments have been the subject of controversy since their inception.

In 1996, President Clinton initially reserved the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, reserving 1.7 million acres. Twenty years later, in 2016, President Obama declared the Bears Ears’ ‘ruggedly beautiful landscape’ a National Monument and secured over 1.35 million acres.

In 2017, responding to years of local concerns, President Trump reduced the size of both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, allowing for more targeted protection of sites and multiple uses of the land.

Four years later, in October of 2o21, President Biden rescinded Trump’s downsizing of the monuments and enlarged the borders of both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The monuments now comprise over 3.23 million acres in southern Utah. The statement claims that President Biden has never been to the monuments himself.

“Reservations endanger what they purport to protect. They draw new attention to artifacts, features, and fossils on the land—causing a wave of vandalism, defacement, and desecration. They draw visitors from all over the world who trample on flora, traumatize fauna, and leave trails and roads overrun with trash and human waste. And they devastate the livelihoods of the Native Americans and locals who love and care most for the land,” the state of Utah wrote in the lawsuit against President Biden.

The statement went on to say that the reservation of so much land within the counties imposes countless burdens on local government, including costs and impositions related to search-and-rescue, road maintenance, administrative planning, land management, facilities maintenance, and law enforcement. Both Kane and Garfield Counties will be affected by the monuments’ enlargement.

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