Utah sues Biden over move to restore two national monuments

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah and two pro-Republican counties sued the Biden administration on Wednesday. last year’s decision Former President Donald Trump will restore two sprawling national monuments on rugged land sacred to Native Americans in a reduced scale.

In the lawsuit over two monuments in southeastern Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, President Joe Biden’s actions challenged him to protect sites he considered to be of historical, geographical, and cultural importance. It claims that the 100-year-old law that permits has been violated and outlines the rules that apply when it can be protected. do so.

The fate of monuments is one of America’s most prominent battles over public lands and how to manage them. Federal land management decisions are often politically charged throughout the rural West. There, pro-Republican ranching communities skeptical of federal overreach confront protectionists and tribes who argue that strong federal protections are needed as a bulwark against development and industries such as mining and logging. often

The new lawsuit is the latest twist in a year-long debate that spans three presidential administrations. The argument revisits a well-known legal and political argument that Republicans have repeated in courts and campaign speeches over the years about the benefits of federal land grabbing and local land management. touching the dots.

Since Biden returned the land in October 2021, challenges have been expected from Utah and two right-leaning local jurisdictions, Kane and Garfield counties. At the time, Biden called the Bears his Years “a place of reverence and sacred home for hundreds of generations.” indigenous. “

Monuments roughly the size of Connecticut include canyons framed by pink ribbons of limestone, dramatic red rock mesas and buttes, juniper forests, and Native American monuments such as ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs. There are relics.

In a joint statement Wednesday in support of the lawsuit, Gov. Spencer Cox and the entire Utah congressional delegation accused the federal government of failing to properly manage the land, calling the expanded monument an “unmanageable level of visitation.” ‘I blamed it.

The group, signed by Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, said, “We are committed to ensuring that public lands are properly protected and that sensible management is maintained by those closest to them. We are challenging this repeated and abusive federal excesses.”

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration had not commented on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit brings the battle over these lands to court, similar to what happened after Trump’s move to shrink the monument in 2017. Outdoor company Patagonia and Tribal Federation file lawsuit Restoration of monuments including Hopi, Ute Indians, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni Tribe, Navajo Nation.

“Tribes have fought for decades and centuries to defend these lands,” said Matthew Campbell, deputy director of the Native American Rights Fund, on Wednesday. “It looks like they have to keep the fight going.”

Part of southeastern Utah with two monuments was at the center of the country’s most heated land-management debate Since President Bill Clinton designated the Grand Staircase a National Monument in 1996,

Designated a National Monument by President Barack Obama, Bears Ears is unique in that land management decisions are made by a commission jointly governed by federal agency officials and representatives of five tribal nations .the committee rebuilt Five years later, this past June, the Obama-era co-government plan was scrapped when the Trump administration scaled back the monument in 2017.

That decision opened parts of the monument to mining, excavation and other development. Low demand and high production costs prompted minimal interest from energy companies in land no longer protected when Trump scaled back the monument. This includes the large coal reserves found in uranium on land cut from Grand Staircase and from Bear’s Ear.

The Utah lawsuit alleges that the Biden administration interpreted the Archeology Act of 1906 in an overly broad sense, ignoring its original intent to protect certain historic or archaeological sites. It cites the statutory provision that a designation should encompass the “minimum area” that meets conservation goals.

The Democratic president has argued that large tracts of land must be designated to protect certain areas, and Biden, in his October 2021 proclamation, called the Bears Ears designation “of historical and scientific interest.” “The smallest area suitable for proper care and control of an object”.


Washington AP writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.