Bears Ears in the News: National Monuments On Trial
Let’s start with two important court rulings:
Bears Ears, Grand Staircase lawsuits will stay in D.C. as judge rejects Trump administration motion to move them to Utah
Big news out of D.C.: The Trump administration’s motion to move from Washington to Utah the lawsuits over the shrinking of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments has been rejected by a federal judge. The plaintiffs in the cases, comprised of numerous Native American tribes, environmental organizations, and recreation groups, to name a few, argued that the case should be heard in Washington as originally planned because the public lands in question belong to all Americans. The Justice Department and Utah’s congressional delegation countered that the trials should take place in Utah because that’s where the National Monuments at the heart of the cases are located. Judge Tanya Chutkan’s ruling is a positive development for the plaintiffs. Read more from The Salt Lake Tribune here.
Trump Loses Ground to Environmentalists in Utah
Adding to the good news for the enviro-tribal-recreation coalition: Judge Chutkan also ruled that the Trump administration must provide advance notice to plaintiffs before any extractive-industry companies commence drilling and/or mining on the land slashed from both monuments. The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer reports that “The victories, though procedural, may ultimately prove crucial in the case. The groundbreaking decision is particularly key…litigants could now ask the court to issue an injunction to stop environmentally destructive activities before they occur.”
The lawsuits continue apace; a verdict is not expected for at least a year.
An update on Bears Ears management plans
The Bureau of Land Management is forging ahead with its management plans for the Trump-shrunken monuments. Interestingly enough, representatives from both sides of the monument battle are dissatisfied with the plans. Members of the tribes with ancestral ties to the Bears Ears region say Trump’s action to shrink the monument is not only illegal but an insult to the tribes’ meticulous efforts to document the culturally and spiritually significant sites on the original monument’s 1.35 million acres. San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams, an outspoken opponent of former president Obama’s December 2016 decision to designate Bears Ears National Monument, also disapproves of the plans, arguing that they were created without adequate local input, despite the administration’s stated deference to rural Utahns. The Deseret News covers the story here.
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