Defending Our National Monuments

Sites of historic or cultural significance, or areas of scientific interest, such as regions of unusual geologic formations, or areas with ecological or biological significance. Also at stake is the rule of law — the Constitution devotes authority over our public lands to Congress, not to the president.

Attorneys

Heidi McIntosh

Regional Office / Program

Case Overview

National monuments are unique among the special and protected land designations on federal public lands, because they are created pursuant to a special, but narrow, grant of authority to the president to regulate federal public lands. Under the Antiquities Act, the president can essentially sign a proclamation to protect certain areas as national monuments.

Since its enactment, the Antiquities Act has been used more than 150 times to designate and protect national monuments. And some of our western icons — including Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce National Park, and Zion and Arches National Parks — began life as national monuments. Others have remained national monuments for many decades and have become world-renowned, such as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The Trump administration shrank the boundaries of Bears Ears by 85% and cut the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante by half, opening those lands to mining and drilling. The administration’s plans included destructive industry practices, such as chaining forests with waist-thick chains and carving up landscapes for new roads.

Earthjustice sued to protect Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, representing nine organizations, and was co-plaintiff with NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council) and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

In 2021, President Biden restored the original boundaries of Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monuments.

A hiker at Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.
A hiker at Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. (Koji Hirano / Getty Images)

Case Updates

Bears Ears National Monument
August 11, 2023 Press Release: Victory

Court Dismisses Utah Suits, Upholds Presidential Authority to Establish National Monuments

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments remain safe

The Procession Panel, Bears Ears National Monument.
August 11, 2023 Update

Judge Throws Out Lawsuits Attacking Two Priceless National Monuments

This win advances two goals at the heart of Earthjustice’s mission: protecting public lands and facing down the destructive threat of fossil fuels.

A threatened Mardon skipper butterfly basks in the sun at Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
July 18, 2023 Press Release: Victory

Court Affirms Expanded Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Second federal appeals court protects Monument and the rare and beautiful plant and animal species that live there