Five Native American tribes are suing President Donald Trump’s administration over the president’s decision to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent.
The Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the Ute Indian Tribe joined in filing the lawsuit Monday after Trump delivered a speech over the Utah monument’s cutback.
Bears Ears was established under the Antiquities Act in Dec. 2016 by former President Barack Obama.
“When we look at the underlying act, it does give the president broad discretion [to designate monuments],” Ute Indian Tribe attorney Jeffrey Rasmussen said on a press call Tuesday. “The legal issue that we are going to be getting to is can the president or can a new president go back and redo that use of discretion.”
The tribes’ attorneys argue Trump went outside the authority expressly given to the president in the Antiquities Act by reducing the Bears Ears designation. Trump ordered a new review of the national monument and redrew the lines already settled by Obama.
“He doesn’t get to make that call because it was already made and done and finalized,” Rasmussen added.
Donald Kochan, Associate Dean for Research and law professor at Chapman University School of Law, asserts the Antiquities Act is not a “one-way ratchet” in respect to designating national monuments.
“Nothing in the poorly drafted and extremely deferential text of the Antiquities Act overcomes the presumption that the power to act includes the power to reverse course, even of a prior President,” Kochan said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
If an area needs predictable, codified protection, Congress should be the body responsible for passing legislation to protect it.
“This is not a binary choice between national monument status and no protection. Congress has the power to give these lands heightened protection. If Congress wants them to have protection then they can create it,” Kochan added.
The Tribes’ lawsuit joins a slew of other groups and organizations suing to keep Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante at their current boundaries. Ten environmental groups, led by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit against members of the Trump administration Monday, as well. The outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia has pledged to sue the administration.
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