Environmentalists, Native American tribes file lawsuits to block shrinkage of national monuments

Environmental groups and five Native American tribes have filed two lawsuits to block the Trump administration’s plan to drastically scale back two national monuments in Utah.

President Donald Trump announced the decision on Monday at the Utah State Capitol. Opponents immediately vowed to take legal action to block the changes.

On Tuesday, a coalition of five tribes filed a complaint in D.C. District Court, arguing the president did not have the authority to undo or replace the existing Bears Ear National Monument. The tribes have long argued that the land protected by President Barack Obama is an important part of their heritage and includes historic and culturally significant artifacts.

The Associated Press
FILE – This July 15, 2016, file photo, shows the “Moonhouse” in McLoyd Canyon which is part of Bears Ears National Monument, near Blanding, Utah.

The team of lawyers representing the Navajo Nation, Hopi tribe and others is asking the court for an immediate injunction on the Trump decision to prohibit so that the new monuments boundaries cannot be enforced until the matter can be fully litigated.

Shaun Chapoose, a leader from the Ute tribe who is part of the coalition, said at a press conference Monday the announcement was a line in the sand.

“We gathered as sovereign tribes and put aside our differences to benefit not just us but the citizens of the United States. So with that same mentality we’ll do the same to protect it. And if they think we’re not prepared to protect it they’re kidding themselves,” Chapoose said.

In a second lawsuit environmental and conservation groups, including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society, formally sued the administration for its plans to reduce the size of a second national monument: Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Both lawsuits say the president doesn’t actually have the legal authority to make the changes he announced this week.

Trump authorized a review of national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act in an executive order signed in April. The Antiquities Act was enacted in 1906 and gives the president the power to create national monuments, but there has been some disagreement over whether the act gives the president the authority to eliminate them.

The Congressional Research Service wrote a report on this issue in 2016 that found that while the Antiquities Act doesn’t specifically grant the president the power to shrink or eliminate monuments,…

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