Five Native American tribes have filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump after he announced Monday that he would reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by 80 percent. This would break Bear Ears into two national monuments.
Trump decided to shrink the national monument to “reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to your citizens.”
“The families and communities of Utah know and love this land the best and you know the best how to take care of your land,” Trump said.
However, according to the lawsuit, Trump violated the United States Constitution and the Antiquities Act of 1906. This act only gives presidents the power to create monuments, not abolish them.
Republicans and industry groups in the West have wanted to reform the Antiquities Act for a while now. Republicans argue that the law provides presidents with too much power over public land preservation. Ranchers and energy companies insist that they could use the land to expand their businesses.
Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, is one of the businessmen supportive of Trump’s decision.
“We are grateful that today’s action will allow ranchers to resume their role as responsible stewards of the land and drivers of rural economies,” he said.
“The President was plainly aware that he lacked the authority to revoke a monument and is thus transparently attempting to evade that strict limitation by purporting to reduce it but, as described herein, the President’s action must be viewed as a revocation, particularly with respect to all objects not included in the two ‘new’ monuments,” the lawsuit says.
The tribes want Trump to rescind the proclamation or prohibit him from enforcing it. This would stop the orders signed Monday from taking effect.
Jonathan Nez, vice president of the Navajo Nation, said that Trump’s announcement is difficult for him to understand. “It’s just another slap in the face for our Native American brothers and sisters.”
The Bears Ears National Monument was created by former President Barack Obama to protect the United State’s most important cultural treasures, like the rock art, archeological sites and lands sacred to the Native American people.
This isn’t the first time a president has tried to reduce the size of national monuments. Former President Woodrow Wilson, for example, shaved off half of Mount Olympus National Monument. However, this is the first time an action like this has been challenged in court.
Ten environmental and wilderness groups are also pursuing lawsuits against Trump, particularly for the cuts to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Trump ordered for the monument to be divided into three smaller designations and stripped of almost 900,000 acres. Their lawsuit states Trump is removing protection for land that would leave “remarkable fossil, cultural, scenic and geological treasures exposed to immediate and ongoing harm.”