High Court Refuses Case on President’s Power to Create Monuments

WASHINGTON  – The Supreme Court today declined to hear a case challenging the legality of establishing marine national monuments under the Antiquities Act.  In a statement respecting the denial of certiorari, Chief Justice Roberts indicated that while the case potentially posed interesting legal questions, it did not do so in a way that was appropriate for high court consideration.



The following is a statement from Kate Desormeau, senior attorney for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):

“The Supreme Court’s rejection of this case is a victory. The commercial fishing industry’s attack on Northeast Canyons and Seamounts has now failed at every level of the federal courts.

“The Chief Justice’s solo statement raised questions about the size of national monuments in the abstract. But there is ample scientific support for Northeast Canyons and Seamounts’ boundaries, developed through a year-long process during the Obama administration. In recent years that rationale for the monument has only gotten stronger. And there’s plenty of historical precedent, too: Presidents of both parties have long agreed that special ocean areas like this one can be protected as national monuments – and that means protection from extractive industry uses, like commercial fishing. The fight to protect Northeast Canyons and Seamounts isn’t over with today’s decision. We are still in court with our partners challenging President Trump’s illegal move last year to open the marine monument up to commercial fishing.  


 “President Biden should restore full monument protections to Northeast Canyons and Seamounts with a new proclamation right away, and his administration has heard an outpouring of public support for the monument. Restoring protections is essential to safeguarding its fragile biological resources from industrial exploitation, bolstering the ecosystem’s resiliency in the face of a changing climate, and safeguarding this special place for generations to come.”




Commercial fishing industry groups sued the Trump administration in 2017, arguing that President Obama had no power to create the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England. Two lower federal courts rejected that challenge, affirming that the Antiquities Act authorizes the president to protect special areas of the ocean as national monuments.  Today’s decision means the appeals court’s decision affirming the legality of the monument stands. 

NRDC and partners are challenging the Trump administration’s attempt to revoke protections from the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in a separate lawsuit filed last June.

More information is available here and here

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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