Federal judge dismisses lawsuit regarding Bears Ears, State of Utah appeals the ruling
by Bill Boyle
Editor, San Juan Record
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit, filed by the State of Utah and others, which challenged the 2021 expansion of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments by President Joe Biden.
Judge David Nuffer ruled on August 11 that the President had the authority to designate monuments under the Antiquities Act.
Judge Nuffer’s dismissal of the lawsuit was applauded by environmental and tribal advocacy groups.
Steve Bloch, legal director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said “Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments are two of the most significant, intact, and extraordinary public landscapes in America—landscapes that will remain protected after today’s dismissal of these lawsuits.”
Judge Nuffer dismissed the case with prejudice, which means it cannot be refiled in another court.
However, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes filed an appeal to the decision on August 14, sending the issue to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Reyes said, “All along, the State of Utah has sought appropriate protections for the precious, unique area in the heart of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante regions. But the current monument designations are excessive by millions of acres.
“President Biden’s designations are far outside his authority. We eagerly anticipate explaining to the Tenth Circuit why the law and facts are on our side.”
Utah Governor Spencer Cox predicted the case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“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,’” said Cox.
“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 National monument was created in 2016 by President Obama. President Trump shrunk the original boundaries by 85 percent in 2018, and the original boundaries were reinstated by President Biden in 2021.
In other matters on federal land, President Biden designated nearly one million acres surrounding Grand Canyon National Park as the new Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument.
The designation, announced on August 8, is designed in part to stop uranium mining within the monument.
Energy Fuels has existing mineral rights within the boundaries of the new monument.
Mark Chalmers, President/CEO of Energy Fuels, said, “Although we believe the use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish a national monument of nearly one million acres represents an overreach of executive power, we are pleased that [the] designation appears to respect valid, existing mining rights.
“We are committed to working collaboratively with the administration as the monument designation takes effect.
“We are committed to ensuring the U.S. has a domestic supply of uranium, vanadium and rare earth elements to achieve the country’s goals of reducing carbon output.”