Salt Lake City, UT
A Utah federal judge has granted a motion to intervene filed by conservation groups in defense of the Biden administration’s restoration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. In 2022, the state of Utah sued in District Court over President Biden’s decision to reinstate the monument boundaries after Trump shrunk them without lawful authority.
In December the Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes were granted a separate motion to intervene.
Conservation groups issued the following statements in response to today’s news:
“We are pleased that we will be able to join the legal proceedings in defense of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments,” said Heidi McIntosh, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain Office. “Utah’s misguided lawsuit seeks to destroy the Antiquities Act with a flawed argument that presidents may only designate relatively small monuments that would be inadequate to protect many of the breathtaking features worthy of designation. Courts, including the Supreme Court, have consistently upheld the president’s authority to determine whether and how much area to protect, affirming the president’s ability to protect magnificent sites like the Grand Canyon, which was originally designated a national monument. We will use every legal tool available to defend the Antiquities Act and preserve our natural and cultural heritage for generations to come.”
“Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments are two of the crown jewels of America’s system of federal public lands,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The irreplaceable geologic, cultural, and biological wonders of these national monuments should be preserved for current and future generations to study and appreciate. We’re grateful we now have a seat at the table to work and make sure that’s the case.”
“Anti-conservation state and local governments are once again attacking these national monuments in southern Utah, relying heavily on arguments already rejected by the courts in the Grand Staircase ruling two decades ago,” said Erik Molvar, executive director with Western Watersheds Project. “The Biden administration is doing the right thing by fighting these attacks on these public land crown jewels, and we are eager to join them, and Indigenous groups, in rallying to the defense of these lands.”
“We are pleased the court is permitting us to continue the fight to protect Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante on behalf of our members and supporters,” said Chris Krupp of WildEarth Guardians. “The public wants these incredible places protected, for good reason. Utah, unfortunately, wants these places exploited for corporate profit.”
“We’re grateful for the court’s ruling,” said Tim Peterson, cultural landscapes director for the Grand Canyon Trust. “Utah’s ploy to strip presidents’ authority to protect national monuments under the Antiquities Act goes against the wishes of westerners — 84% of us favor the creation of new protected areas, according to this year’s State of the Rockies poll.”
“We applaud the ruling enabling us to join in the legal defense of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments,” said Sara Husby, executive director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “The ill-conceived lawsuit by the State of Utah against the restoration of these national monuments to their original size represents a direct attack on the Antiquities Act. This ruling ensures that the voices of concerned citizens will continue to be heard in the fight to protect America’s public lands and wilderness both now and in the future.”
Earthjustice represents The Wilderness Society, Grand Canyon Trust, WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness in the intervention. They are co-counseling with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, who were each granted intervention as well.