Bears Ears lawsuit to proceed, federal judge rules

Bears Ears lawsuit to proceed, federal judge rules
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A federal judge on Monday ruled that legal action can proceed against the Trump administration's move to reduce the size of Utah's Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan rejected the Trump administration's bid to dismiss the lawsuits against the 2017 actions, according to the three-page decisions.

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Chutkan, an Obama appointee, ordered lawyers from all sides in the case to attend a hearing on an “expedited, coordinated schedule" for the filing of additional legal briefs. 

Environmental groups and five Native American tribes are challenging the administration's decision to reduce the size of Bears Ears by about 85 percent. Trump also slashed the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument nearly in half.

The rulings mean that the legal action brought by those groups will proceed.

Heidi McIntosh, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountains office, told The Hill in a statement that the group looks "forward to the next step: showing that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview MORE violated the law when he dismantled Bears Ears and Grand Staircase."

"When Trump went after our national monuments, he thought he could ride roughshod over this country’s cultural and natural heritage, and auction off iconic public lands that belong to all of us. But this remains a country of laws. We will work relentlessly until we ensure that Bears Ears and Grand Staircase are protected forever as they were meant to be,” she said. 

The administration last week posted a plan to the Federal Register to open the remaining Bear Ears lands for development. The plan was condemned by Democrats and environmentalists.

Bears Ears was designated by former President Obama in 2016 and Grand Staircase was designated by former President Clinton in 1996. 

Updated at 11:16 a.m.