The president signed proclamations on Monday that would strip protections from Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
Today, NRDC and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, together with Earthjustice on behalf of nine other groups, have filed a lawsuit to block the Trump administration from dismantling Bears Ears National Monument, a region sacred to many indigenous peoples and home to more than 100,000 archaeological sites that have long been threatened by looting, vandalism, and industrial development. The groups argue that President Trump exceeded his authority under the Constitution and violated the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which President Obama created the monument.
After a speech filled with untruths at the Utah State Capitol on Monday—and in a blatant handout to the oil, gas, coal, and uranium industries—President Trump carried out the largest attack on public lands in the nation’s history with two strokes of his pen. In separate proclamations, Trump ordered the reduction of Bears Ears National Monument by an astounding 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by 46 percent: more than two million total acres all together.
“President Trump grossly exceeded his authority in this shameful attempt to hand over sacred lands to polluters and private commercial interests,” NRDC President Rhea Suh said. “His order is not just illegal but also a serious affront to every American who values our country’s natural heritage. This landscape—with its petroglyphs, stone villages, and sheer natural splendor—has been the homeland to indigenous peoples for thousands of years.”
This lawsuit comes just three days after NRDC and our partners sued the Trump administration over its attempt to also eviscerate Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. “Trump issued an illegal proclamation, trying to strip protection from treasured lands held in trust for all of us and our grandchildren—all so he can give a massive handout to polluters,” Sharon Buccino, director of NRDC’s Land & Wildlife program, said in response to his action on Grand Staircase. “When we see this kind of folly, we will meet it swiftly with a legal complaint.”
Earlier this week, the five Native American tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition filed their own lawsuit defending the national monument.
Other monuments could soon face similar assaults from the Trump administration. Despite nearly three million public comments in support of safeguarding our most treasured natural spaces, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke submitted a report in August recommending that the president strip protections for at least 10 publicly held land and marine monuments—and proposed opening them up to drilling, logging, commercial fishing, and other for-profit activities.
“We look forward to fighting in court to forever preserve these historical, natural, and cultural treasures that are held in trust for future generations,” Suh said.