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A coalition of five tribes that spent years pushing for the creation of Bears Ears National Monument said Monday it will wage a legal battle over President Trump’s plan to reduce the protected area by 85 percent. (Dec. 4)
AP

SALT LAKE CITY – A flurry of lawsuits challenging President Trump’s decision to chop up two large national monuments in Utah could finally bring an answer to the much-debated question of whether presidents have the legal authority to undo or change monuments created by past presidents.

Until that question is answered months or years from now, the fate of the contested lands in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments will remain unresolved.

Proclamations signed Monday by the president allow lands no longer protected as a national monument to be opened up in 60 days to mining, but conservation and tribal groups will likely try to keep that from happening.

Mark Squillace, professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado-Boulder, said he doubts the federal government would permit mining so quickly after Trump’s announcement because it would be bad politics, especially as the legal battle mushrooms.

Outdoor retail giant Patagonia joined the lawsuits Wednesday, filing one on behalf of several other organizations to block Trump’s reductions to Bears Ears. The California-based company said in the lawsuit that Trump’s proclamation shrinking the monument by 85% exceeds the president’s authority and strips much-needed protections from sacred tribal lands.

Patagonia also replaced its usual homepage with a stark message, “The President Stole Your Land.”

The post drew a strong rebuke from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke who called it “nefarious, false and a lie.”

Three lawsuits already had been filed involving Utah’s monuments. And more are expected — especially if Trump follows…