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Utah files appeal in national monuments case

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Tom Joyce

(The Center Square) - Utah recently lost a lawsuit, but it is not backing down. 

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes previously filed a lawsuit that aimed to reverse the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. He lost in court last Friday but filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to keep the fight going.

Reyes said in a press release that the goal is for the case to make it to the Supreme Court and that the Tenth Circuit is merely a necessary stop to help get it there.

“All along, the State of Utah has sought appropriate protections of the precious, unique area in the heart of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante regions,” Reyes said in the release. “But the current monument designations are overkill by millions of acres. President Biden’s designations exceed his authority. We eagerly anticipate explaining to the Tenth Circuit why the law and the facts are on our side.”

Utah Governor Spencer Cox also supports the effort to challenge the ruling.

Last week, Cox said he thinks President Joe Biden lacks the authority to designate these monuments.

“This case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and today’s ruling helps us get there even sooner," Cox said. "The clear language of the law gives the president the authority only to designate monuments that are ‘the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.’ Monument designations over a million acres are clearly outside that authority and end up ignoring local concerns and damaging the very resources we want to protect. We look forward to starting the appeals process immediately and will continue fighting this type of glaring misuse of the Antiquities Act.”

In its lawsuit, Utah's chief argument against the two designations is that they violate the Antiquities Act of 1906. The law lets the federal government protect “cultural and natural resources of historic or scientific interest on federal lands,” according to the National Park Service.

These lawmakers think that because Biden expanded the two monuments by a combined 3.2 million acres, he overstepped his authority.

Yet, when dismissing the lawsuit last week, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer noted that, historically, efforts to challenge national monuments using the Antiquities Act have been unsuccessful, including challenges to former President Theodore Roosevelt's Grand Canyon designation, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.