Energy & Environment

Utah sues Biden over restored national monument boundaries


The state of Utah is suing the Biden administration over its decision to restore the size of two national monuments that were shrunk by then-President Trump. 

The size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears monuments, both located in Utah, were cut by nearly half and about 85 percent, respectively, during the Trump administration. 

These monuments were initially designated under the Clinton and Obama administrations.

In deciding to restore the monuments’ original sizes, Biden invoked tribal rights, calling Bears Ears “a place of healing … a place of reverence, a sacred homeland to hundreds of generations of native peoples.”

But, the state of Utah and two of its counties argued in court that the monuments are too big, and a violation of the Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the right to protect historic landmarks and other areas of significance.  

They specifically argued that Biden’s move was not compatible with the part of the law that says parcels put aside for protections “shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

And they said that Biden’s move would “stifle local economic activity, impact local culture and tradition, lock up potentially critical minerals, destroy jobs, and impose exasperating and costly burdens on local and state governments.”

“The vast size of the new monuments draws unmanageable visitation levels without providing the tools necessary to adequately conserve and protect them,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) said in a Twitter thread supporting the suit. 

The White House and Interior Department declined to comment, and a Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

But, groups allied with the administration argue that Utah is wrong, and that the landscapes need to be preserved. 

“By filing a lawsuit against the federal government over these monuments, the State of Utah is wasting taxpayer money trying to undermine something that is evident to anyone who spends time in these remarkable landscapes—that Bears Ears and Grand Staircase deserve protection,” Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said in a written statement. 

“Both legal and historical precedent support the creation of these landscape-scale monuments,” Rokala added.

Tags Bears Ears National Monument Biden Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Lawsuit Trump Utah
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