Statement | November 19, 2018

Bicameral Amicus Brief Supporting Lawsuit Against Bears Ears National Monument Reduction Filed by Congress

Statement by Barbara Pahl, senior vice president for field services, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Today, 26 Senators and 92 Members of Congress filed a brief as Amici Curiae in support of consolidated lawsuits that challenge the legality of President Trump’s executive action to reduce existing national monument designations at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in southern Utah. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit opposing the 85 percent reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument. The following is a statement by Barbara Pahl, senior vice president of field services for the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

“We commend Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) for their leadership in standing up for the original boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument and for organizing a strong show of Congressional support for maintaining the integrity of the Antiquities Act. The reduction of the Bears Ears boundaries as proposed by the Trump Administration would do grave damage to an extraordinary cultural landscape and would violate the intention of a powerful preservation tool that enables presidents to establish national monuments—not diminish them.”

Background

On December 4, 2017 President Trump took executive action to reduce the Bears Ears National Monument by roughly 85 percent. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a co-plaintiff challenging this action in Utah Diné Bikéyah, et.al v. Donald J. Trump, et.al. This is one of three consolidated cases challenging the action. The amicus brief by Congress argues that presidents do not have the discretion to abolish or diminish the size of existing national monuments. The Constitution vests plenary power over federal lands in Congress, and the president can only exercise power in this area if expressly delegated by Congress. In the Antiquities Act of 1906, Congress authorized presidents to designate historic and scientific landmarks as national monuments and to reserve federal lands as part of monuments to prevent irreversible damage. As the amicus argues, Congress preserved its constitutional prerogatives while advancing the goal of safeguarding national treasures by empowering presidents to establish but not diminish national monuments.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
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